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Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation

'TECHNICAL MATERIALS'

in Building Design, 08 June 2012

The completed gallery and toilet buildings. A light fitting in the gallery is made from the lid of a 20-litre can. Detail section
  1. Oil drums wrapped over projecting rafters
  2. Noggins between rafters
  3. Sloping beam
  4. Glazing in steel channel
  5. Flattened oil drum roof cladding, min 200mm overlap each direction with drip profile down pitch
  6. 100mm x 50mm rafters
  7. 175mm diameter eucalyptus beam
  8. Oil drums wrapped over batten connected to eaves board
  9. 250mm diameter eucalyptus pole
  10. Display wall sundried mud block wall with clay render
  11. Shipping container
  12. Terracotta tiled flooring set in screen bed on concrete slab
Gallery floor plan.
  1. Display area
  2. Display counter
  3. Display wall of sundried mud block with clay render
  4. Café
  5. Kitchen
  6. Storage
  7. Lockable shipping container
The gallery building is built with eucalyptus framing.

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Architect
Kilburn Nightingale Architects
Location
Western Uganda
Completed
February 2012

'Kilburn Nightingale Architects has embraced vernacular construction techniques for a new gallery and cafe building in western Uganda, the latest phase of an ongoing project for the Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation.

'Set on a rural site in the foothills of the Ruwenzori mountains, the project includes an art foundry, studios for visiting artists, housing and a clinic for the local community.

'The gallery building is a simple enclosure built with eucalyptus framing anchored to the ground and braced by a shipping container, which had been used to bring foundry equipment to the site. The walls to both gallery and toilets are of locally fired bricks, using a mortar of murram (a local lateritic soil) and mud render.

'The roofs are made of recycled 200-litre tar drums - left over from a Chinese road-building project nearby - on a eucalyptus structure.

Prototype building

'The first stage of the project was to build a prototype building, a guesthouse to accommodate visiting artists. The architects decided against the traditional local technique of mud and wattle for the walls, as the wood tends to get eaten by termites and the walls have to be replaced entirely after a few years.

'Masonry was more promising and they experimented with local bricks, mud mortar and rammed earth blocks - bringing back samples for structural testing in the UK.

'"It was a process of trial that was not without error," says Richard Nightingale.

'"We suffered some roof leaks from initially believing that we could crimp the oil drums like lead sheets and it was a long time before we arrived at the best proportion of mud to cow dung to achieve a robust render finish."

'"It was encouraging to arrive on site at one of our infrequent site meetings to find the local people excited by the use of murram for mortar and pointing - saying 'if the rich wazungu [white people] choose mud to stick their bricks together why should we use expensive cement?'"'

ON SITE DRAWINGS

'The contract documents consisted of a range of conventional plans, sections and elevations along with a series of images from a computer model showing each step of the construction process.

'This was amplified with drawings done by hand, many of which were done on site in discussion with the person doing the building work.

'The architects had to accept that there was a certain degree of "loose fit" between intention and execution, evidence of which was revealed by emailed photos or on occasional site visits.

'This required a flexibility of approach and a certain amount of hasty redesign - including, at one point, the complete replanning of the site when it was discovered that the buildings had been started in a quite different location from that indicated on the drawings.'

Hand drawings done on site were part of the flexible approach the architects used during this project.


PROJECT TEAM

  • Client Ruwenzori Sculpture Foundation
  • Architect
    Kilburn Nightingale Architects
  • Structural engineer
    Price & Myers
  • Builder Kasese Nail & Wood Industries