Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Architects: Because Engineers Need Babysitters

     One of the most unique cultural experiences of Uganda was Church. As I said before, we went to the local church that is attended by the YWAM director and his family. It was posted to start at 9:00, so we started left the YWAM base at 10:15 (It's like a Ugandan 9:00). Shockingly, we were the last people there! The church was packed, but the Ugandans displayed their generous nature by instantly shuffling the entire congregation around to fit our group inside. They pushed the kids to the floor and squeezed 5 to a bench, and once we all got settled the worship started.
     The songs were a mix of English and Luganda, some we knew and some we didn't. Once the sermon started, the service was about as far as you could get from the up and down dance of the Catholic church. In the Ugandan church you have to sit. On a very hard bench. With no back. Without crossing your legs!! It was so difficult. And the most amazing thing was that the children on benches sat completely still and stared straight ahead for the whole sermon. The 2+ hour sermon was not only long, but was preached in English and translated into Luganda, making it extra lengthy and hard to concentrate.
     Of course, the building was also a huge departure from the ornate churches we are used to. It was a simple concrete rectangle with a dirt floor or very dirty concrete floor. No A/C of course, but all of the windows and doors were open. The ceiling was clad in bamboo mats for some acoustic control. As always, the Ugandans were dressed very nicely... some more than others. I imagine some of the dresses probably made their way from a thrift-store donation made by American high school girls after they were finished with their prom dresses. I'm talking hot pink, rhinestoned, satin dresses. It was adorable.

Pearly's Photo - Walking to Church

After church we got straight back to work! It might have been Sunday, but we only had a week to design and draw up a whole school and hotel!

A unique thing about working with EMI, is that architects, civil engineers, structural engineers, electrical engineers, and geotechnical engineers all work side by side. I think we all found it exciting to see more of what happens in the other disciplines. Typically architects hire engineering consultants that they email with often and talk to on the phone in the case of confusion. Many of us didn't know exactly what the other disciplines do, but when we are all located in the same place we really got to see how each discipline contributes to the project.

So here's what I found the engineers do:

they test the water for e coli

they test the alkalinity, chlorine, nitrogen, and iron content in the water

 they dig grave-like holes...

...to test the soil

and percolation tests to determine the soil's ability to hold or drain water

they inspect the electricity on the site...in this case they determined that ants had eaten through a lot of the wires in the ground. This caused the electricity to NOT be grounded in some places. Which meant that when I turned on the hot-water heater in the shower (I was being SO hopeful that we might have hot water...what a silly expectation) I got a major shock that shot my hand back and left it tingly for a few hours.

And last but not least...
The structural engineers (Brad) present images of catastrophic collapses...
...and promise that we won't provide the same...or scare them to listen to our design know-how.


But of course everyone knows the architects worked the hardest and longest :)


     Although we know how important our role as designers is to YWAM right now...we are all very aware that the best thing that could happen to Uganda is to educate African architects and engineers. Hopefully, one day, trips like these aren't even necessary. That's why we were so excited when Joshua stopped by!

David (architect from England), Shana (architect from California), Joshua, Me, Sarah (architect from England), and Pearly (architect from Hong Kong)

Joshua is a 16 year old Ugandan boy whose mother works for YWAM. She told him that architects were going to be designing new buildings for YWAM and he was so excited! Joshua's mother brought him by on Sunday...and he came back ever day after that! Since the architects were inside on our computers every day we had the least amount of contact with local Ugandans. That's just one of the reasons we were so excited that Joshua kept coming by! He is a lucky kid...not only does he get to go to school...he gets to go to a school that offers drafting classes. He said that because of this class and something that he read once, he wants to be an architect, too. So we put him to work :) 
During the three days Joshua worked with us he proved his awesome drafting and design skills. He drew a building by hand that we ended up using as the proposed staff housing. Then we let him use SketchUp, a computer program that models buildings in 3d. He had never drawn on a computer before and he did such a good job. We encouraged Joshua as much as we could, so that he can add to the couple of hundred registered architects in Uganda (as compared to over 200,000 in America). The team was nice enough to leave him all of the drawing supplies that they could give up, and hopefully he will put them to good use!


I think I've lost everyone again...I'll finish this post another day :)





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