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Mega-Developments: Leap-frog existing cities? [FUTURE CITIES]

30 May

As the first morning of the Future Cities conference wrapped up, discussion focused on the economic and environmental advantages of large-scale extra-governmental development projects.  Arnold Meyer, head of Real Estate Africa at Renaissance Group, the morning’s penultimate speaker, claimed that these mega-developments could “leap-frog” existing cities in terms of social, economic, and environmental conditions.  David Frame, managing director of the massive Eko Atlantic project in Lagos, spoke during the following panel about how by “reclaiming” and stabilizing a stretch of land on Victoria Island, they are radically improving the business environment, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and thereby substantially improving the standard of living of Lagos.

These speakers championed large-scale top-down development models, with little resistance from the discussion moderator or conference attendees.  What, one might ask, happens to the existing cities?  What are the repercussions of increasing the rich/ poor divide?Image

Bamboo Workshop Shed Constructed: space-frame structure, indigenous construction techniques

13 May

Second Bamboo Workshop Shed constructed

Construction Underway on Bamboo Workshop Shed

In anticipation of the fast-approaching rainy season, last week we completed a new workshop shed space to be used by our carpenters. Situated in open space next to the recently completed Yam Storage Barn, the structure is supported by (and provides shade for) an adjacent shipping container currently serving as mechanic home base.

Bamboo 1:25 model

The project was an exciting collaboration between our design team and local bamboo craftsmen. Harnessing local knowledge and indigenous building techniques, and capitalizing on skills and craftsmanship particular to bamboo construction, we were able to create a very stable space-frame truss system to carry a fairly expansive roof on just four columns.

Having initially developed the design through sketches and digital models, we discovered that creating a physical model was an incredibly powerful tool for communicating the design to Dominic and Peter, two Anamite bamboo carpenters, who were able to quickly and clearly understand the necessary components and connections involved.

Bamboo Carpenters Dominic and Peter discuss construction with Architect Stephen

A Story of an Anam Businesswoman

29 Jul

Nwanegbo Donatus Aniukwu is a student of Anambra State University Economics   Department. He is a fellow of the Chife Foundation. Donatus recently worked with two interns to interview Mrs. Grace Uduaka, a business lady near the Chife Foundation headquarters.

Chife Foundation Fellow, Donatus interviewing Grace Uduaka

Who is Mrs. Grace Uduaka?

She is a woman of her own, doing a business of her own.

A businesswoman near the Chife Foundation headquarters, she sells edible products like biscuits, bread, and cooked rice and beans. She purchases those items from Onitsha, which is the central market near Anam New City, and then she transports them to her small store near the project site and sells them for a small profit.

Grace started her business with the help of her husband who helped care for the welfare of their family of 10 people (eight children in addition to Grace and her husband). One of their children is married, another works in the nearby city of Asaba. Also, they have five children in school: one who has succeeded in pursuing tertiary education and is currently attending Oko Polytechnic Institution, a federal university in Nigeria); a second child in secondary school; and three children in primary school. Unfortunately, Grace’s last-born child cannot go to school due to the very far distance between her house and the school.

In Idemmili (in the southern part of Onitsha, Nigeria), Grace was trading yams and fish, but she left due to the conflict between Igbos and Fulanis, which took place in 1987-88. When we asked her about how life was in Idemmili, she smiled and commented, “I was making a lot of money.” Grace is a true businesswoman.

Then, due to the conflict and wishing to keep her family safe, she and her entire family moved to Ebenebe, where they started farming (mostly just for survival and subsistence). They also managed to make some profit from the crops harvested from her farm. In 2009, when the Chife Foundation began the Anam New City project and began employing workers at the site of the New City, Grace saw an opportunity for business. She knew that, while working, a person needs to eat for more energy. She started selling some things, such as drinks and food, to the workers at the site when the activities and building there began. Despite her income from this small business, she still cannot afford to live in an urban area (such as Onitsha) due to the higher expenses there, and that is why she lives in the farming settlement of Ebenebe – so that she provide for her family without owing money to anybody. She now sees Ebenebe as a profitable means of surviving because she is able to sell biscuits, bread, cooked rice and beans, cassava, and other edible items to community members.

Grace hopes that when the Anam New City project is well underway, she will have saved enough money to obtain a stall in the market in the New City, allowing her to sell her products directly from the new market place.

When we ended our discussion with Grace, we offered a hand shake which she accepted with a broad smile. She said that she will be the first among the pioneers to embrace the New City and that she is eager for Anam to become a respected trading center through the work of business people like herself .

Post by: Nwanegbo Donatus Aniukwu

Housing Discoveries with Fellows

5 Jul

Last week week was one of exploration and discovery of housing practices through group discussions and feedback mechanisms in the Rurban Design Workshop.

As an architect, one such mechanism I developed is a housing survey geared towards understanding the current state of density and spatial arrangements of Anam homes.  The preliminary survey (below) asks the Fellows to sketch a plan (top view) of their home.  From my first trials, I quickly learned that this was easier said than done, as spatial thinking can be challenging if you are not trained in it.

Nonetheless, from a rough sketch and a short discussion with one Fellow, we were able to acquire the number of sleeping rooms in a house, the number of households (different families) per house, and the number of people per room. It was an interesting exercise in understanding not only the nature of the family size but also the important social role of homeownership as a safety net for extended family members. As we move forward to survey a larger sample size, the acquisition of floor areas will also help to structure and inform decisions about the development strategy for affordable and incremental housing in the New City.

Post by: Quardean Lewis-Allen

Example Housing Survey

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