“New design and construction methods that reflect the community’s optimism to take life back into their own hands”

Global & Regional Jury Report – Middle East Africa

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    Rebuilding Erupts in Cabo Verde

    The community of Chã das Caldeiras has had a deep bond with the Volcano, whose crater they call home, for generations. Though it destroys part of their village every 100 years they always return, it is friend, not foe. After the most recent eruption, we worked with the inhabitants to aid a sustainable rebuilt and redevelopment of the village. This centered around the design and build of a school, the construction of which acted as a workshop; how to use volcanic rock as a construction material.

Last updated: November 13, 2021 Eclepens, Switzerland

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.