Water in Angola: Water resource is abundant in Angola but inadequate water infrastructure creates an inequitable distribution of water. Most citizens rely on communal taps with one tap serving 10,000 people on average. The communal taps rarely function forcing people to purchase water from those with means to build their own water tanks.

Site Selection Menongue Town Vector Map: The ideal site would be near a natural water source as well as near existing road infrastructure but away from the downtown area to call attention to the underserved rural areas.

Maximizing Water Collection: Site selection criteria included proximity to road infrastructure and renewable surface water to maximize water collection.

Bridging Knowledge: The design intent is to empower people who lack basic human needs by teaching them techniques to harvest and store water as well as providing a space were kids can get primary education.

Floor plan shows the school and public portions of the building separated by the public circulation that crosses through the whole building. The building serves as a bridge across a river.

Returning Water to the Natural Cycle: Some of the water that is collected by the roof is released to the vegetation on the building that will then flow back into the existing water pond. The section shows the water collection and storing systems.

In the rainy season, the natural water pond will fill up and some of the lower parts of the building will be subjective to space transformation as water invades the space.

Plan diagrams show structural grid.

Collecting walls: Inspired by the concept of biomimicry, specifically how some living beings get their water source, I explored hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces. The concept of permeability and impermeability was applied to the water collecting and storing system where the roof drives the water to collecting walls that would absorb it and then channel it to the centralized tanks. 

Sustainable Strategies: Wall Section showing water collection, natural ventilation, and daylighting.

Water collection system diagram shows the rainwater being collected on the roof, channeled through pipes embedded in walls, and then stored in the centralized tanks.

From Tank to Beam: The centralized tanks are expressed on the exterior when the water storing agents gradually become the beam that supports the structure

Program diagram shows layers of security. Vulnerable programs are sheltered by more exposed programs.

Program diagram in section view

The Playground: The massive skylight and the porous facade allows the playground to be placed inside the building away from the public for security and under the women’s supervision. The river and the water storage tanks are visible through glazed openings in the floor.

Security: Locally prevalent window security bars are reinterpreted as facade design elements taking the issue of security seriously in a playful way to assure the safety of the user groups.

Conceptual model of water collection system

Collecting Wall Concept Model Demonstration: Hydrophilic textile material is incorporated into a conceptual wall assembly to show how water being poured on the wall can be absorbed and channeled into a bucket.

Path to Water

Path to Water

Reclaiming ownership of water for self-reliance in rural Angola, Africa

Bachelor of Architecture Thesis Project

Philip Ra, AIA
Mini Chu
B.Arch Thesis Humanitarian Award

The lack of preparation by the Angolan authorities to supply clean water to all citizens is a problem that is used as an opportunity to design a building that harvests and stores rainwater. The structure would also provide a learning program that focuses on primary education to boost and redefine a better path for kids that wouldn’t normally get the chance to initiate the earlier stages of their education. In addition, a women's literacy program educates and trains women to progress in society with independence.

The contrast between the rich and the poor in the Angolan society is a portrait of social inequality. A building that removes obstacles to water access by using its main elements (walls, roof, and floors) as rainwater collecting and storing systems will benefit people lacking access to clean water. Architecture will serve as a statement speaking out against the inequality offering a touch point for the attitude citizens should adopt.

Angola is a fairly well watered country full of renewable water resources but still, only 52% of Angolans have access to clean water. Whether it’s a case of the government's bad management of the water resources or a case of statization, looking for solutions that would rather focus on promoting social empowerment by teaching people techniques for self-reliance and dignity, is the best approach.

Menongue is representing those cities where the latest technologies don’t reach. For many years the focus has been on investing in the capital’s social and economic growth, leaving other cities' growth on hold. Cities like Menongue are usually poorer, with less infrastructure and a high level of illiteracy. Menongue’s geography favors water collection from a site water source, rainwater collection, and water retention but like many other cities, there is no proper infrastructure dedicated to those jobs due to lack of funds. Therefore not everyone has access to clean water.

Path to Water is a project that aims to bridge the divide in access to clean water as well as education.

The educational aspect of the building can be seen both on the inside, where there is the primary school program, as well as on the outside circulation, where one experiences and learns about rainwater water collection as one navigates through the building.

The idea of using water bottles in walls is an attempt to tackle the issue of solid waste in Africa by removing some of it and reusing it as construction material, as well as reducing the amount of formal material used in the construction process.

Security is also a big issue in underdeveloped countries, therefore the facade of the building provides safety bars. The idea was inspired by common local protection techniques. The pattern of the security bars mimics raindrops.

The program itself is designed to act as a protection agent, by layering the program elements from the most vulnerable ones (kids program) to the most exposed ones (public program).

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