Inside Kampala’s architectural gem | a screen
Tucked away in the Kabalagala suburb of Kampala, it is an architectural gem. The 32 Degrees East rammed earth arts center was constructed using sustainable materials already found on the site such as red earth, sand, stones and wood.
Celebrating earthly construction, the avant-garde structure is the handiwork of London-based architecture practice New Makers Bureau in collaboration with Kampala-based multi-disciplinary design and construction firm Localworks.
The project was delivered in two phases, and was commissioned by 32° East-Ugandan Arts Trust, an independent, women-led African non-profit entity that promotes East African and contemporary art artists.
In March 2023, after seven years of tireless effort and $1,035,000 later, the first phase of the project was completed. It includes four artist studios, a library (the only specialized art library in Uganda), restrooms, and a flexible café, which will function as a temporary gallery and work space until the second phase is completed.
The first phase of the project was completed thanks to funds from the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, African Arts Fund, Arts Collaboratory, Mercedes Villardelle, Linda Mutesi, Sheena Robinson, Susan Rosenberg, and John Lazar, as well as Alison and Jeff. Ng, Vegeti family. There was also in-kind support from the Roofings Group, which provided the materials, and the New Makers Bureau, which worked on a pro bono basis.
James Hampton, architect and founder of New Makers Office, told the Saturday Monitor that the first phase was designed as a scale model or distillation of the main parts of the organisation: artist spaces (studios) and a large flexible space that can be used for gathering. Exhibitions, workshops, etc.
“So, with the first phase, the community can really establish itself,” he added.
In a statement, the New Makers Bureau revealed that the flexibly designed and fully accessible building is located on a slope. It is arranged around a shaded, step-free courtyard, creating a visual connection between all spaces as well as an amenity space for social gathering as well as redundant space for making and displaying larger works.
The arts center will serve as a one-stop hub for Uganda’s contemporary artist community, offering three-month residencies, rented studios and a gallery. Income-generating spaces were also arranged in the second phase. These include an operational café, kiosks and rented studios.
The New Makers Bureau says it’s a radical departure from the former home of 32 Degrees East — a campus that housed four shipping containers.
The single-storey, low-carbon building has a very local character. Local eucalyptus wood was used for the rammed floor formwork and then reused to make the roof panels. Demolition materials were also reused for packing and as aggregate.
Rammed earth is a technique for constructing foundations, floors and walls using compressed natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime or gravel. It is an ancient method that has recently been revived as a sustainable building method.
“It’s a readily available material, and in this case it comes directly from the site,” Hampton said of why rammed earth is superior to concrete and steel construction, adding: “It has a high thermal mass, which means it helps cool the building during the construction process.” “The day.”
Because it’s low in carbon, rammed earth also takes as little energy to produce as “mechanical presses and other machinery,” says Hampton.
He added: “About eight percent of total global carbon emissions are the result of concrete and building production, and the construction sector as a whole represents about 40 percent.”
Hampton believes that a “radical shift (…) towards more sustainable ways of building” is essential.
Minimizing solar gain as well as creating shaded and cool spaces are design priorities in Kampala where lighting conditions are intense thanks to the city’s location on the equator. The building incorporates strategies to mitigate the intensity of sunlight, with the use of thin polycarbonate rooflights for natural daylighting and priority shutters on the glass windows.
The sweeping roof also provides shade to the patio. The ‘hit and miss’ custom-designed open brickwork in the facade also creates intermittent light. The architects included polycarbonate roof lights to provide natural daylight into the rooms.
“When designing in a tropical climate, you have to be careful to balance the need for natural daylight with the risk of overheating. So, we came up with these thin light slits in the surfaces that create daylight for each of the spaces without letting in too much light, causing High temperature.
The building has large windows that protrude steel frames to allow fresh air into the rooms and serve as alternatives to air conditioners.
“There are typically large openings on one side of the spaces and smaller openings (in the brick), which helps circulate air through the spaces and create airflow. This combined with the coolness of the rammed earth helps keep interiors cool and avoids the need for air conditioner”.
The expressive roof forms are designed to float above the building. The large overhanging roof, which provides shade, also protects the earth walls below from heavy rain. Horizontal tile details on the rammed earth walls also provide additional protection.
The slope of the roof is set at an angle across the plan, rising to the highest point to create a clear entrance to the building and give direction to individual elements. This simple twist creates a gentle curve in the roof trusses and a dynamic ceiling in the main space of each New Makers office.
The Arts Center can be reached by car or on foot and is adjacent to a large local green space and residential areas. The office designed built-in seating on the perimeter of the courtyard to encourage impromptu social moments and pauses. Window seats are strategically placed inside to provide views of the nearby green space.
The second phase, expected to be completed at the end of 2024, includes a mezzanine gallery, two additional artist studios, four artist guest rooms, offices, gazebos, and a walled courtyard garden. It will also include a large double-height gallery space with a walled courtyard garden, artist accommodation, work space, more studio space and some shops.
32° East Arts Center is one of 85 buildings out of 4,800 entries from around the world shortlisted for the 2023 Dezeen Awards. The 85 shortlisted projects, competing for awards in 16 different project categories, have been designed Architecture, by studios are located in 28 different countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Greece, Malaysia, Hungary and Tanzania.
32° East Arts Center has been shortlisted in the Cultural Project category competing with Bundanoon Art Museum, Ilaroo, Australia, by Kerstin Thompson Architects; Leknon, Samos, Greece, by K-Studio; Yongchun Sightseeing Factory, Quanzhou, China, designed by Lel Design Studio; IF.BE (Ice Factory Ballard Estate), Mumbai, India, designed by Malik Architecture; and Shanfeng Academy, Suzhou, China, from Open Architecture.
The Dezeen Awards are the most prestigious and prestigious celebration of the world’s best architecture, interiors and design projects – the three main areas that Dezeen writes about. This year’s awards ceremony will be held at Shoreditch Electric Light Station in London on 28 November. The Arts Center was featured in the July-August 2023 issue of the prestigious independent British architecture magazine Architecture Today.
“This project has been a labor of love for many involved. It is a joy to be part of something that is changing the arts landscape in East Africa, and a real reminder of the power of community and collaboration across borders,” said Tessa Bahana, Director of 32° East. Thanks to the expanded resources, The center provides fertile conditions for artists to present high-quality and accurate works.
Felix Holland, director and principal architect of Localworks, said his entity had combined the forces of 32° and the office “to create a building that would have a real impact on Kampala’s cultural landscape”. Hampton adds that the “climate-focused design” and “integrated approach to working with natural resources” make the project even more special.
“The rammed earth is ‘stabilized’ with lime which along with the clay in the soil and sand helps bind the materials together and gives it strength. The rammed earth will last at least 60 years or more if well maintained. Hampton said of the possibility of a cement-free building. Stands the test of time: “Earth bricks have as good compressive strength as standard fired bricks.”
He added: “Lime is more sustainable than concrete because it uses less energy to produce it as it is burned at much lower temperatures. It is also a natural material and has inherent moisture control properties and has again been used in construction for thousands of years.
The main players
Localworks is a multi-disciplinary collaborative design and construction firm, based in Kampala, specializing in the design and implementation of environmental architecture in East Africa.
Founded in 2011, 32° East–Ugandan Arts Trust focuses on creating and exploring contemporary art in Uganda.
New Makers Bureau is a London-based architectural practice founded by James Hampton in 2020. It creates innovative, low-energy contextual architecture with a particular focus on embodied carbon.
(tags for translation) Uganda Arts Fund