Monday, February 16, 2015

Building Degree Zero

All phoros © Iwan Baan
My first contribution to the Dutch magazine Mark is an interview with José Selgas and Lucia Cano, of SelgasCano, on their project for a Vacination Center in Kenya, which they designed and built with their MIT students. The great Dutch photographer Iwan Baan took the pictures. Sorry, digital story available by purchase or subscription only.
"JS: What really interested us about Turkana is that it's absolutely at the limit in everything, making it very complicated to know how to build. The site is 100 kilometers from the nearest town. It was 40º when we were there, and that was in the winter. There's no water. It's windy, with dust everywhere. Working with any material was nearly impossible. Wood is out of the question because of the termites. You can't use adobe, because there's no clay."
"DC: Why did you decided to build out of sheet metal and concrete?"
"JS: It was very difficult to make the students understand this. For them, Africa meant natural materials: weaves, natural fibers, thatch, adobe. All the research first went into these. But when we arrived there, the client told us, 'Please, no thatch, no weaves.' They're expensive and complicated, and cost a fortune to maintain. They're for the luxury hotels, the tourists. So you realize that there are a lot of our own prejudices in wanting to use these supposedly natural and honest materials. And that it really is a tremendous lie. Africa is much more similar to us than we like to think. Their building systems are not that different. really."

Building Degree Zero
Vaccination and Educational Clinic, Kokouselei, Kenya by SelgasCano and MIT studio students
Interview with José Selgas and Lucia Cano
Mark (Amsterdam), No. 54, February - March 2015, pages 114 - 119

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