Vertical Village / Social Gradient
Low Income Housing in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Critic: Francis Kere, Harvard GSD

This project attempts to address all scales of public and private space- from the scale of the home, the neighborhood, and the 67-hectare site boundary. We provide an infrastructure capable of addressing the family social structure which we believe is vital to Burkinabe culture. The perimeter of the block informs the organization of each cluster contained and all social functions of the house are relocated to the modern “samande” - the traditional notion of centralized public space. The compound is enclosed in not a harsh barrier, but a soft threshold- a public / private filter made of vertical wooden members that also act literally as a filter to clean air. The filter is implemented where a level of privacy is desired- creating a buffer between the very public street and the semi-private clusters within each block.

As Ouagadougou rapidly began to grow mid century due to a flux of people from the neighboring villages moving to informal areas of the city, they brought with them aspects of of family lifestyle still depended upon village tradition, which in turn affected how space was utilized. These spaces had to be adapted to the spatial limitations of their new plots, so spatial tendencies carried over from the villages had been replaced with a more orthogonal form. Boundaries became defined by straight walls and the traditional inner courtyard was reduced in size and completely enclosed and the samande, or public space- thus the immediate outer public virtually disappeared. As a result, the samande was pushed out into the street and that’s where most social interaction takes place. We used the current condition of street and tried to strengthen the activity, believing we could also establish a connection between the adjacencies of the site.

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