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  • Hi there.

  • So I grew up in southeastern Tasmania,

  • and if you allow me a few moments of nostalgia,

  • I'll show you where I came from

  • in order that you better understand where we end up.

  • For a few of our early years, we lived in a tent

  • at the end of a lush valley by a river.

  • Later my brother and I built our own tent

  • We milked our own cows, worked the lands

  • and grew vegetables and fruit that we lived off.

  • We felled our own trees, and we milled our own timber

  • to build the house I grew up in.

  • We lived a self-sufficient lifestyle

  • and what I thought sustainable at that time.

  • Many years later in London when I was teaching,

  • the head of my department, gave a lecture

  • and she used this book, The Rabbits, to illustrate her talk.

  • I'm gonna read a few pages from this book to you now.

  • It's a story of colonization in Australia

  • where the colonized are depicted by the native animals

  • and the rabbits are, the colonizers are depicted by the rabbits

  • an invasive damaging species which is responsible

  • for much of the natural devastation in Australia.

  • So, from the book

  • At first, we didn't know what to think

  • They look a bit like us.

  • There weren't many of them.

  • Some were friendly.

  • They didn't live in the trees like we did.

  • They made their own houses.

  • We couldn't understand the way they talked.

  • They ate our grass.

  • They chopped down our trees

  • and scared away our friends.

  • And the story goes on

  • Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits.

  • Millions and millions of rabbits.

  • Everywhere we look, there are rabbits.

  • And the book ends.

  • Who will save us from the rabbits?

  • So as I was listening to the lecture

  • I began to think that I was probably a rabbit

  • and my brother was a rabbit too.

  • And I realized I didn't want to be a rabbit any more.

  • So I thought, it might be better to be like a chameleon,

  • able to adapt and change, and blend with our environment

  • rather than conquer it

  • As designers, we are able to practice globally in our networked world

  • We move from village to city, to country to continent with ease

  • and we practice using a common global language.

  • But if we were chameleon designers,

  • we would adapt that language to each new environment

  • that we practiced in.

  • This is the scheme we're currently working on

  • in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,

  • a series of small pavilions

  • placed around the existing trees on a small site

  • The stiff roofs with air vents to catch the sea breezes

  • allow heat to escape and shed monsoonal rains.

  • Much of Dar es Salaam is built on ancient coral reefs

  • and these coral reefs are mined to create aggregates in lime

  • and we are discussing using some of these coral

  • for the walls of this building

  • About 500 meters away from this site

  • is this coral mine

  • and most of the aggregates here are crushed manually

  • and they are used to make

  • limestone and aggregates for building materials.

  • To the north of Dar es Salaam,

  • there's a cement factory off in a distance

  • and some of these aggregates are taken into this cement factory

  • and here they are used to make high-quality Portland cement,

  • mainly for export.

  • It's rumored that Roald Dahl

  • once sat underneath the tree on the right

  • and gazed across at this cement factory

  • as I did when I took this photograph

  • and it was this cement factory

  • that was the inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,

  • an icon of decadence and excess.

  • Sadly, this is a new-built house in Dar es Salaam today.

  • It's built using mainly imported low-quality cement,

  • imported roof tiles and other imported building materials.

  • It has virtually no relationship to the site on which it is

  • and there's nothing that tells us this house is in Dar es Salaam.

  • We believe we can do better than this.

  • Our practice cell studio has been working predominantly

  • in East Africa for the past three years,

  • and we've been fortunate enough to have clients

  • that encourage us to respect local traditions, values

  • and to create an experience born of the place.

  • We use nature as an inspiration for our work.

  • This roof on the right here

  • was inspired by this amazing cloud formation

  • I saw one morning

  • created by the morning sun heating the mist

  • that falls in the valley overnight.

  • Our roof structure has a spiraling structure

  • that leads up towards a skylight

  • and the skylight brings light down into the center

  • of the covered outdoor terrace.

  • Working in harmony with the nature,

  • this Bougainvillea on the left has been trimmed

  • onto a simple timber structure

  • in order to create a shaded place to sit and work

  • or pass the time throughout the day.

  • Our building on the right

  • uses this as its model

  • So we created a thick shaded insulated roof,

  • timber pole, and it allows the space to be used freely below

  • and let the air to pass between the wall and the roof

  • Or a simple eave shade structure that we simply grew

  • a passion fruit vine over

  • so that people enjoying their breakfast in the morning

  • can pick fresh passion fruit as they eat their fruit salad.

  • And we also use man made objects

  • as an inspiration for our work.

  • This is a house in a slum in Kampala,

  • Uganda's capital city,

  • and it's constructed using old, unfolded oil tanks

  • and fuel tanks and car bonnets.

  • And it's this type of work which is an inspiration

  • to us, for us because it's born of necessity.

  • The building on the right

  • is a small ancient pavilion we were building

  • and it's clad using recycled materials

  • This small work is a hut on the edge of a cotton plantation

  • next to our site.

  • It's a perfect template for us when we are building

  • some accommodation units

  • The thick insulated roof protects from the equatorial sun,

  • it's oriented to protect from the seasonal rains,

  • there's a shaded open space to look out across

  • the cotton plantation for security.

  • Our building attempts to do the same.

  • A thick insulated roof,

  • covered outdoor spaces,

  • a closed site to the rear protecting from seasonal rains

  • and openings towards the magical views beyond.

  • We use two types of timber in the construction of our projects there.

  • In the top left-hand corner

  • you'll see Eucalyptus, an invasive Australian species

  • somewhat like myself,

  • and in the top right-hand corner, you'll see

  • an East African satinwood.

  • Both timbers are available locally

  • so we use these timbers for all parts of the building,

  • for the structure, for the framing, for the joinery and so on.

  • We didn't waste any parts of the trees.

  • The branches left over from the East African satinwood

  • we used to create handrails on the decks of this building

  • whereas the offcuts from the timber,

  • the Eucalyptus poles we created for framing,

  • were sliced into smaller pieces and used to line

  • the underside of this ceiling on the veranda.

  • And the pathway on the left, typical in the villages and slums

  • throughout Uganda to protect from the mud in the rainy season,

  • was the inspiration.

  • Our projects were far away from cities,

  • mainly at national parks,

  • and transport was sometimes unreliable,

  • as basic as services such as water and power.

  • So we tried to do everything manually.

  • Here you can see some of the tools we had to work with:

  • there's an old car seat belt which is used as a tool belt,

  • a rake made of old timbers and rusty nails,

  • and a hacksaw, a hacksaw handle made out of a piece of bent metal rod.

  • And the materials, we source locally as well.

  • Everything we found there such as thatch, recycled metal,

  • and locally fired clay bricks.

  • All of them unique, no materials the same

  • with their own texture and color and quality.

  • And most importantly the people we worked with.

  • So, we sourced all of our labor from the areas surrounding,

  • and we taylored and adapted our design techniques

  • and construction techniques to the skills that we found.

  • So we found masons and carpenters and weavers

  • and we worked with them to understand what they could do

  • so that our designs could reflect that;

  • and we also taught new skills,

  • so that the knowledge transfer process was two-way.

  • We were learning as much as we were teaching.

  • We also use local community groups to undertake task for us.

  • On the left is a weaverbird's nest,

  • the site is on the edge of a national park in Uganda

  • which has the highest number of bird species in Africa

  • and we asked the local women's group to make two hundred versions

  • of this nest for us.

  • We then created a lighting installation out of the nests.

  • You can see the original weaverbird nest tree on the left,

  • our nests hanging in the middle,

  • and at night, the installation setup twinkling with the stars.

  • So we had a magical landscape to work with

  • and we didn't want to intrude on it

  • and it would have actually been better to do absolutely nothing at all.

  • So what we decided to do is try to blend our buildings into the landscape.

  • Here we physically traced the lines of the horizon,

  • used them to slice through our building

  • and we built each layer of the building

  • with one of these bricks, local bricks that we found

  • so we developed sort of a strata through the building.

  • And we carried this onto the inside of the building

  • trying to blur the distinction between inside and outside.

  • This is one of my favorite juxtapositions in Uganda.

  • It's an ancient vocano which is being draped with the tapestry,

  • a patchwork quilt of fertile farmland

  • each patch with its own different texture and color.

  • And in the foreground, you'll see the shining corrugated iron roofs,

  • a symbol of progress

  • on one of the most commonly found building materials.

  • Around that project, we realized that there were a lot of houses and schools

  • and buildings which were using... which had

  • old corrugated iron roofs that has past the use-by date.

  • They were leaking. They weren't doing their jobs anymore.

  • People couldn't afford to replace them.

  • So we worked with local charity

  • to set up a program which we call the "Rusty Roof Exchange"

  • where we built new roofs

  • for those in need, and we took their old metal roofs.

  • And the locals thought we were mad

  • But we wanted to take this product

  • and see if we could give it a new life, to upcycle it.

  • So we used, cut it into thin strips

  • and we used it to weave lamp shades,

  • we cut them into smaller pieces and used them to clad parts of our buildings.

  • And we actually draped it across the roofs of our buildings

  • to create our own patchwork tapestry.

  • I'm sorry it's a bit dark, this image,

  • but effectively there's a patchwork quilt of corrugated iron

  • laid over the top of these buildings

  • which create an air gap between the layer below

  • and yeah, also protects the waterproofing membrane below

  • so it gives a longer life.

  • We wanted our buildings to disappear into the landscape

  • as they are in this image, rather than contrast it.

  • And our roofs took on new lives.

  • They change color and texture and pattern throughout the day

  • They are constantly evolving.

  • So to end,

  • we believe that to create architecture that is born of the place

  • in both developing and developed worlds,

  • that we need to source materials locally,

  • we need to use construction methods that are available locally

  • wherever possible,

  • to recycle, to upcycle

  • and to be resourceful,