SOS Childrens' Village International, Djibouti
Drawings, plans, elevations
Djibouti is located on the Horn of Africa which suffers from the persistent droughts and famines associated with the area. When we were approached by SOS Children to design and build a small village compiling 15 houses where to run family-strengthening programmes, we decided to build a medina with the singularity of being for children. This allowed us to build the homes in a very local way – narrow streets that would shade one another, providing natural ventilation and corridors of wind flow. We decided to leave the cars outside the medina so the inner streets, being pedestrian-only, became a playground for the children to play around the houses in a nice and safe environment. The houses in this village are closed to the outside; they look inwards, protecting residents, while providing privacy and excellent ventilation. In order to create the required shaded areas with courtyards and corridors allowing wind flow, every single house is different to the others. The streets of the medina suddenly open themselves creating squares of different sizes where children play and daily community activities can take place. We also wanted to include as much vegetation as possible, even though Djibouti is extremely arid, we realise it was possible to integrate the vegetation in the open spaces which will grow with the proper cares giving extra shades in the future. The construction was made using locally available materials as well as emulating the traditional architecture of narrow streets and lattices which allow for natural ventilation. A singular addition was made to the conventional architecture: ventilation chimneys that allow for hot air inside the houses to go up through them, creating a constant airflow inside the houses all day long. These “wind chimneys” were a kind of experiment which happened to work quite well.