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Day care center in Chimundo, Mozambique

Nineteen students, five weeks in Mozambique, one school - built in twelve days

“Our education is detached from reality”

Iwan, a Mozambican second year student of architecture.

“After four years as an architect student I was about to lose faith in architecture as something to aspire to”

Naeem, a Norwegian fifth year student of architecture. 

The cultural and economic situation for these two students is totally different, but they express the same numb dejection over life in the beginning of their architectural path. Iwan expresses his concern about not working with the real problems of his country as one of the poorest in the world. Naeem expresses a feeling that the problems in western society are not being addressed or are simply  well  hidden in a country of seemingly endless opportunities.

We have seen the same phenomenon in other countries under big pressure. Weather it is poverty or post-war problematic, architecture students are not dealing with the real needs of their people. In Sarajevo, year 2000, while the living conditions for the urban population was still very poor, all the students were drawing big glossy hotels and monuments for peace.

In Guangzhou China in 2006 we find the same gap between the students work on bigcity plans that removes the historic city and their interests for dealing with the increasing problems around the “floating population”- conditions in the urban context. The reason for this is complex and perhaps understandable on some level. But why is the same feeling for detached reality confusingly alike in our western society?

One of the western cultures largest problems today is perhaps that we have problems to see our own needs. What is our problem? – Do we have a problem? – Or is that the problem? If we are going to solve our own needs and be better prepared for an uncertain future, we may have to seek the answer outside the problems nearest horizon. This raises the question of how the educational system is coping with the true needs of this world. A master course in “a unknown culture” can help us to such an understanding. This could generate a fertile cultural transgression in the positive modulation between different realities. 

Cultural transgression

 What is the value in cultural transgression? What happens when Iwan and Naeem meet and work together? In a world of conflicts, surprisingly enough this transgression often gives new and astonishing architectural outcomes close to real reality and far from our homogeneous globalization.

After decades of foreign aid, Mozambique is now totally dependent on the economical incomes this help gives. This is an unfortunate balance between expectations for aid and how the help postpone the peoples own initiatives. As a quite peaceful post-colony and post-civil war country, Mosambique stands in the position of loosing most of their aid programs. There is a growing sense of unpredictability about the future concerning the economical situation and how to deal with the inescapable transformation the society has to undergo.

In the world of helping organization there is an increasing understanding that the most efficient way to combat poverty is the adaptation of “poor initiatives” programs. Here the marginalized population has the opportunity to take charge of their own destinies. A community driven development that contributes to the strengthening of local environments. The value of such projects has proved to be much more lasting than that of conventional aid programs.

The task of building a daycare center in the village Chimundo driven by the nun, Sister Catharina`s was such a task. In 2004 the Chimundo story of Irma Katarina begun. She started under the biggest cashew nut tree on her plot. Cooking small meals for the homeless children. She was soon to develop more of her plot, making her able to serve and teach the children in a small building.

Irma Katarina’s pupils are mostly children of poorer conditions, orphans, or abused children. Her objective is to give them a place to stay during the daytime to minimize the risk of them being exploited in different ways. Irma Katarina’s dream is to build up an orphanage on her plot for around 150 children and a workshop, settings to teach the kids different skills so that they can learn how to work for a living.

Nineteen students from Bergen School of Architecture had a five-week trip to South Africa and Mozambique. The trip culminated in a strong encounter with the village Chimundo in Mozambique. Through analysis and discussion with Irma Katarina, AidGlobal, politicians, architects and local villagers, it was a clear wish and need to start the process of erecting the first building. 

During 12 days, with limited funds, lack of time and with great help from the locals, they built a school for a daycare-centre. The students did extensive research on how to lower the building costs through the use of natural materials and evolving local techniques. This was for instance done through innovation in the thermal mass walls build up by stacked rice bags filled with local sand. 

Apart from being an affordable solution, this methodology made the process understandable and made possible the transfer of building technology to the local people, making them able to continue the project independently.

Fact File:

Project: Day care center in Chimundo, Mosambique - Mastercourse at Bergen school of Architecture
Client: Sister Catharina and Aid Global.
Students: Maria Flores Adamsen, Anette Margrete Basso, Stine Bjar, Xiao (Monica) Duo, Kristian Endresen, Birgitte Haug, Tale Marie Håheim, Gøran Johansen, Silje Klepsvik, Tord Knapstad, Siri Nicolaisen, Larisa Sarailija, Naeem Searle, Ina Sem-Olsen, Dan Paul Stavaru, Irmelin Rose Fisch Vågen, Mathias Wijnen, Olafia Zoega, Eirik Solheim Aakhus
Teachers: Sixten Rahlff, André Fontes and Bror Ragnar Hansen
Location: Chimundo, Mosambique

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