European Finland is in many ways very different from the African countries. The modus operandi of contemporary Finnish architecture has not escaped a global perspective, however – owing much to the devoted and persevering work by architects Saija Hollmén, Jenni Reuter and Helena Sandman. Finnisharchitecture.fi is proud to publish a set of fresh images of the first phase of their recent project, the Kwieco Shelter House for Women, which was completed in Moshi, Tanzania in May, 2015.
About the architecture
According to the architects, the architecture of the Shelter House is designed to respect the Tanzanian culture, climate and spatial hierarchy. Local materials, renewable energies, local manpower and know-how are of importance, as well as participatory planning to ensure the feeling of shared ownership among the people.
In order to provide the clients of the Shelter with a safe environment for protection and healing, the Shelter is situated in the inner half of the plot, whereas the 2nd phase of the project will create a protecting volume for the Shelter. The design solutions are made to minimize environmental impacts, taking into account local conditions and making use of all possible resources.
Equal rights for all are the basis of development
Large covered open air areas allow natural ventilation and free air movement within the building, providing shade and protection from rain. Covered outdoor spaces are used for meetings and seminars. Roof windows provide daylight to the rooms, thus minimizing the need of electrical lightning during daytime. Glass tiles are made out of recycled bottles, to create ambiance and bring colorful light into the toilets. Water is heated using low tech solar heaters. The roof structure has an insulating layer between the corrugated iron roof and the ceiling. In some rooms the ceiling is made of banana leafs.
The doors of the shelter have a metal frame with bamboo as surface material. The main gate refers to a culturally important habit among the Tanzanian women: a kanga skirt with a printed message is worn to deliver a subtle message to her friends of a guest. The Swahili words on the “kanga” of the main gate have the meaning: “Equal rights for all are the basis of development”.
More with less
Your KWIECO project is a shelter for women suffering from domestic violence. Did the function of the building have any effect on your design work?
— Our starting point was the site and the function. We wanted to create a place which feels safe and homely.
How does this project compare to your previous projects in Africa?
— Every project has its own challenges. In a new environment it’s important to find good cooperation partners in both the local organisation and the building construction. In particular, the local architect, engineers and building contractor are key figures. For us a successful project means primarily a completed building in use and the local organisation’s commitment to the project.
In this project the acquisition of funding has been arduous. In Tanzania construction is expensive and because it took so long for the KWIECO organisation to raise funds to purchase the plot, the building costs had during that period tripled. Currently, through Ukumbi, we are looking for funding for the second stage of the building.
How would you define quality in this kind of architecture of limited resources?
— Architecture does not necessarily improve with increased resources. Sometimes one can do more with less.