Malawi Vernacular Architecture or African Vernacular Architecture | Malawi


Architecture is a part of countries culture as much as art, language, music and other components. In many countries, vernacular architecture is disappearing. Eventhough this is true in developed countries, such as the UK, it is especially evident in developing nations, including countries in Africa. Vernacular architecture utilizes materials that are found locally and uses construction techniques that have passed from generation to generation. Changes in techniques have evolved over time but materials stay constant. The main materials used in Malawi vernacular architecture is mud and thatch. Walls are constructed with mud in one form or another. Examples of just mud, clumped on top of each other was documented. More common was mud applied to a frame, either made of reeds, bamboo or wood. The most common method was using mud to create bricks, the bricks either being sun dried or burnt in kilns. The last method of constructing walls is rammed earth, which does not use any wood for the construction, and is the most sustainable. People believe that because thatch has to be replaced, it is temporary. Much of this depends on the thickness of the thatch roof. A proper thatched roof can last up to 70 years, with the ridge being replaced every 20 years. Safari lodges are constructed in this fashion. The average person cannot build a roof to this standard, so a roof is thatched based on what can be afforded.

In Malawi, thatch is both difficult and expensive to obtain. Because of this, not only are thatched roofs thin, but a layer of plastic is placed below the thatch to prevent leaking. Mud and thatch are both viable and sustainable materials. The issue is that people build what they can afford and in many cases it is the bare minimum. Many people have the perception that vernacular architecture is sub standard, temporary, for the poor. If constructed properly this is not the case. Take a look at safari lodges which are built with vernacular materials. In fact these structures are built for tourists, who want to experience the “real Africa”. The problem is that the perception of a mud hut is the one of the dilapidated structure and not of the possibility of what these vernacular materials are capable of. This perception continues because there is very little information on line for people to actually view. African vernacular architecture needs to be documented, not only because it is vanishing, but more importantly to educate about it’s beauty and it’s place as a real and sustainable building technique.

By: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Government Failure in Providing Housing Solutions for Urban Poor | Kenya

By: Brandon Alexander Harrell:

Government Failure in Providing Housing Solutions for Urban Poor in Kenya: According to UN-HABITAT, Nairobi has some of the most densely populated, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world. About 60% of the city’s population lives in the more than 100 slums and squatter settlements around the city. The excessive and expansive slums which pervade Nairobi’s periphery serve as proof of a history of turbulent governance and the consequential housing market failure. The market failure can be attributed to poor governance, high cost of housing finance, a complex land tenure system, stringent planning and building standards, and rapid urbanization compounded with poor economic growth. The lack of affordable housing options for low-income and no-income residents of Nairobi is particularly important due to the fact the new Kenyan Constitution 2010 guarantees every Kenyan the right to decent affordable housing. An estimated 60% of Nairobi’s 3 million person population are low-income, urban poor living in slums which constitute less that 5% of the Nairobi’s total land.  As these slums continue to grow due to a migrating rural populations and internal natural population growth, it is in the interests of Kenya, and the entire Horn of Africa, to see to it that the urban poor are housed.

Our analysis of the various housing interventions spearheaded by the (Government of Kenya) seeks to highlight their strengths and weaknesses and to suggest ways in which they might be improved to ensure maximum benefits, especially for the poorest of the poor. Such projects include: Kenya Slum Upgrading Project currently under way;  Umoja II and Dandora Site and Service schemes and Pumwani- Majengo resettlement; Kibeta High Rise.

What we find is that the GOK has failed to provide access to affordable housing solutions and instead, all interventions by the government to improve access to housing have ended up benefiting the middle and upper-middle income classes. Historically, these programs have failed due to mismanagement and corruption, and lack of political will to provide jobs and resources for the ever growing low-income population.Through an analysis of changes in housing policies, cost-effectiveness of housing projects, level of public/ private partnership (PPP), we hope to shed light on the current trends in slum upgrading and on future possibilities. Alternatives to explore include project management of PPP in the production of low income housing, NGO intervention and community led housing production/upgrading.