This Holcim Awards prize-winner is fulfilling a double mission: rebuilding infrastructure following a powerful volcanic eruption and strengthening ties within a village community affected by the destruction.
At 1700m above sea level on the island of Fogo, the village of Chã das Caldeiras is the highest community in Cabo Verde. Established in 1917 within the crater of the active Pico do Fogo volcano, it was destroyed when the volcano erupted in 2014. Despite the threat of recurring eruptions, the inhabitants of Chã das Caldeiras are determined to resettle the area and are assisted by the government and non-profit organisations Atelier Mar led by Leão Lopes and M_EIA. The project will create an educational complex, housing, and vital infrastructure, and will also equip the inhabitants with construction techniques and transferable skills to ensure resilience in the face of future challenges.
A community-led educational project
The school project was initially launched by the mothers in the community and was integrated into the government’s plan for reconstruction. Completed in 2020, it consists of a kindergarten, a school building, a canteen, a teachers’ room, a washroom and storage facility, and two administration buildings. Up to 60 children can be taught there from pre-school to the end of primary school. The multi-purpose complex also serves as a community centre for meetings and vocational training focusing on tourism, agriculture, sustainable housing construction, and food processing technologies. With the school already operational, the workers who are building the remaining infrastructure are fully integrated into the community and can benefit from the social hub within the school.
A sustainable design
Sustainability lies at the heart of the project in terms of both design and materials. Basalt has been selected as the principal construction and insulation material, in conjunction with a small amount of concrete. With an abundance of this volcanic rock already on site, carbon emissions linked to transporting construction materials are dramatically cut, ensuring a low carbon footprint for the project. Passive cooling and ventilation systems, as well as water-catchment, filtering, and storage infrastructure ensure both optimal thermal regulation and self-sufficiency in an area that is not connected to electricity or running water.
Contributing to scientific research on a unique environment
This project, which is partly coordinated by the University of Cabo Verde’s Department of Architecture under the guidance of Leão Lopes, is also an opportunity to test new building techniques and new models of community development. Everything that is built in Chã das Caldeiras is constantly being put to the test by nature: in November 2020, for example, a 4.9 magnitude earthquake occurred and challenged the structural integrity of the educational complex under construction. The entire village is now part of an ongoing research project that enriches local understanding of the island state, while offering its inhabitants training in sustainable construction that can be applied in many locations.
Read the full interview:See more
The winners of the global Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction showcase the cutting edge of approaches to sustainable design, green architecture, and materials innovation. In the 6th cycle of the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design, offering prize money totaling USD 2 million, most of the global prizewinning projects came from the Asia Pacific and Middle East Africa regions; one top prize each also went to Colombia and Switzerland. The prizes were presented at a handover ceremony at the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy.Read more »
Project description by regional jury
Chã das Caldeiras is a small community established in 1917 in the crater of the active Pico do Fogo volcano on the island of Fogo, Cabo Verde. At 1,700m asl, it is the highest village in Cabo Verde. After a disastrous eruption in 2014, the national government promoted the realization of a masterplan for a sustainable rebuilding and redevelopment of the village. As part of the plan, this project proposes an educational complex whose construction is considered to be a catalyst for the reactivation of community life. Based on a participatory approach, the school is built through the involvement of local people previously trained on specific construction techniques. On-site workshops are organized for the production of building elements, such as bricks and prefabricated slabs.
The complex accounts for seven small volumes, centered around a courtyard, hosting a kindergarten, a classroom, a canteen, a washroom and storage facility as well as spaces for teachers and administration. The school is mainly built with local volcanic rock that, coupled with cross ventilation enabled by small openings in the masonry walls, provides interesting bioclimatic features for thermal comfort. Wide fenestrations ensure adequate amounts of daylight while shading systems minimize direct solar incidence. A 60-ton cistern equipped with a filter allows the storage and reuse of precious rainwater in irrigation systems for the surrounding vegetation.
Regional jury appraisal
The top-down approach that is the groundwork for this proposal and its implication on the social and economic re-stabilization of the community was considered highly commendable. The Holcim Awards jury Middle East Africa praised the low-tech yet effective design and construction operations through which architecture is tied to its context, its environment and its people. Despite the adoption of traditional materials, the project shows a clear effort to introduce new design and construction methods that reflect Chã das Caldeiras people’s optimistic foresight in taking the community life back into their own hands.
Global jury appraisal
The jury was moved by the almost poetic story behind this project: an educational complex that rises from and by means of its own ashes. Reconstructing the community of Chã das Caldeiras starting from a pedagogical infrastructure through a participatory process was considered a brave, demonstrative action of resilience and hope. The jury perceived the choice of construction materials to be very appropriate and the design was particularly appreciated for the balanced relationships between internal and external spaces. This all reveals a beauty that goes beyond the aesthetic.See more
As a Main category prize winner in the regional Holcim Awards 2020, Rebuilding Erupts in Cabo Verde automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global Holcim Awards 2021.
Chã das Caldeiras is a village situated in the volcanic crater of Pico do Fogo on the island of Fogo in Cabo Verde. Following a disastrous volcanic eruption in 2014, the government decided to create a masterplan for the sustainable rebuilding and redevelopment of the village. Within this plan is a design for an educational complex conceived as a catalyst for the reactivation of community life. It comprises seven small buildings surrounding a courtyard. The buildings are being erected by locals trained in specific construction methods. Besides reinforced-concrete structural elements, volcanic rock is the main construction material. “The majority of the school is built with elements fabricated on site and produced by the people of the community,” says prizewinner Leão Lopes of M_EIA/Atelier Mar, São Vicente, Cabo Verde. “We are incorporating a rainwater-collection system because long, dry periods are very common here.” The jury highly commended the project’s top-down approach and its implications for the social and economic re-stabilization of the community. They praised the low-tech yet effective design and construction methods through which the architecture is tied to its context, its environment, and the people.Read more »
An on-site workshop: collaborative construction methods
The project begins with the participation of the local population in the construction works. The people of Chã das Caldeiras were involved in a training process that enabled them to practice specific construction procedures for the site. This was consolidated as an on-site workshop acting as a production centre for pre-built elements (e.g. bricks, slabs). The workshop is of strategic importance to the project because, in addition to supplying locally produced materials, the population quickly realised the advantages of using them in their own buildings. This positive implication throughout the community was proved; it has been implement throughout the retrofitting of 40 family homes in a process where each family is directly involved in the construction, assisted by the M_EIA’s team
Passive cooling and rain-water collection in a very hot environment
Considering Cape Verde's extremely-hot climate, environmental comfort through passive design is the focus of this project. Effective air cross circulation is ensured through the channels in the masonry walls, this balances the thermal amplitudes between exterior and interior. An expressive shading visor minimises the solar incidence within the building, allowing the wide fenestrations and shutters to contribute to the entry of light and natural ventilation. The school is equipped with a 60-ton cistern for storing rainwater and supported by a filter system; sand, charcoal then gravel, that allows the used water to be purified in order to be used in irrigation systems for the surrounding vegetation. The cistern is large enough to support the school for the year.
Volcanic vernacular: introducing new construction technologies
Volcanic rock, in various forms, and basalt are materials locally available in Chã das Caldeiras and are thus the primary construction materials. This contributes to; low construction costs and negates the need to bring materials to site, saving resources and preventing pollution. These local materials were incorporated into the on-site workshop and were thus introduced in the buildings vocabulary as pre-fabricated construction elements, such as the bricks, corner pieces, slabs and stones produced with the aid of simple equipment, operated by the inhabitants of Chã. We developed a low cost, functional Volcano Vernacular that interacts, utilises and speaks to the surrounding environment all while enabling the locals to the otherwise destructive lava, now volcanic rock, as a resource.See more
An educational facility for the reactivation of community life in Chã das Caldeiras, following destruction by lava flows.
Author comment by Leão Lopes, M_EIA/Atelier Mar, Cape Verde on Rebuilding Erupts in Cabo Verde – Post-disaster …
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