Saturday 15 May 2021
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Rethinking Vernacular African Architecture

In Namibia today, we have gone through many stages of segregation especially during time of apartheid.
We have gotten rid of racial segregation; however, we have brought in economical segregation.
The pay gap in Namibia is very large, and this has caused the city of Windhoek to have an economic dividing line reflective of our colonial history.
Have we considered methods of rearranging this segregation to create a more integrated city where people of all classes, culture and backgrounds are able to live together.
Vernacular architecture may have part of the answer.
Vernacular architecture is an architectural style that is designed with the understanding of local the local needs, availability of materials and a reflection of local traditions and way of life.
However, it is sad to see that the vernacular African architecture has lost its appeal across the continent.
The western influence has further creep into our structural landscape to which end we view mud houses and thatched roofs with disdain due to its association with poverty.
A great city can be built using planning and construction methods that reflect the country long before colonisation.
The ethnic architecture can both be sustainable and innovative if done properly.
When foreigners come to the city of Windhoek for example do they get an experience before colonialism?
This was the question we asked ourselves to look at how seamlessly Wakanda as a city had integrated vernacular architecture and design to reflect the way of life.
When we think of vernacular architecture we must see it as the structural language and dialect of the inhabitants.
Imagine if we could use the feel of the ethnic architecture together with the technologies and skills of the 21st century to solve the housing crises and build better town planning models

Rethinking Town planning
Windhoek is a growing city and as a growing city needs to look at the best ways to use the land available.
Windhoek has mainly adopted the grid system in our central CBD, however other parts of the city go more towards natural formations, following the flow of the mountains or rivers that are in the city.
The grid method as efficient as it is doesn’t integrate very well with the rest of the city and speaks a completely different language than that of the vernacular methods of planning.
Another way of planning that works well, integrates the entire city into one pattern and shares the same pattern as our countries vernacular planning is the radial organisation.
The radial method of planning can be seen in many cities in the around the world.
The basis of this type of planning is to create a central point in the city that everything is attracted to (E.g. a monument or national land mark).
From this central point the city then spirals out to the rest of the city.
This allows for the CBD to still be organised systematically and then for the urban areas to be organised around the outskirts of the CBD.
In this formation all class types would be situated along the same spinal network of roads that integrates the city into one and segregation begins to fall away because there is no longer separation of the classes into different areas that are completely detached for each other.
This places every economic class within the same spiral connection to each other.
Within the mass of the main radial layout other subsections can be added onto the main spiral that share the same language of having a central node and then integrating the various radial layouts together to create a free flow of the city throughout.
The visual gap in the economical segregation will start to fade away as people will improve the city on their own in time.
With the introduction of vernacular type of planning within the city people from the country that are not familiar with the city will still be able to navigate the city with ease because it shares the planning and organisation of spaces that the people are used to.
Vernacular architecture can accommodate all the people of the country and allows for foreigners to experience the planning and layout of Namibian vernacular planning.
Here may be an opportunity for us to build a new legacy of the brilliance and diversity of ethnic architecture that is reflective of the soul of the Namibian people.

Steven Harageib – Youth Activist
Jonathan Muller – NUST 3rd Year Architecture Student

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