Olson Kundig Architects is collaborating with the Mwangaza Foundation and the Puget Sound Chapter of Engineers Without Borders to build an orphanage complex near the city of Songea in southern Tanzania.
The orphanage, which is funded by the Mwangaza Foundation and operated by Songea Women and Children’s Organization (SWACO), currently provides food, shelter, health care and education for 68 children in a temporary shelter and foster homes; they have 100+ children on a waiting list. Most of the orphans’ parents died of AIDS. These children have no familes, or what family remains is too poor to provide for them. In addition to the orphanage, the Foundation plans to provide for the health and well-being of people in the surrounding area.
The project will occur in two phases: the first phase will provide housing for 64 children; the second phase will provide for another 160. Housing will be in duplex homes, for groups of eight children with a female caretaker – a “Grandma” – which will create a family structure within the larger community. In addition to the duplexes, the complex will include a dining / assembly space, classrooms, day care, a clinic and outdoor gathering spaces.
The team is taking holistic approach to the design, keeping in mind the local conditions. Providing access to clean water is a significant part of the project. Rainfall in Songea is comparable to what we receive in Seattle, but with long and brutal dry seasons, running out of water is a real possibility. The team is investigating methods of harvesting rainwater as well as conserving water usage throughout the site. With power available only intermittently, the project aims to minimize its dependence on electricity and burning wood and charcoal. Together with Engineers Without Borders, the team is investigating methods of using alternative energy sources, such as solar power, LED light technology and biogas. Members of Engineers Without Borders visited the site in May 2009 to locate a new well, study the local ecology and determine soil conditions. The project will start construction in 2010.