The lapse in recent OAN reports has been just that; a lapse.
In the months preceding December I was engagaged in a frustrating battle with the local authorities to permit our building to process close to the degraded wetlands. Reasoning with the authorities, we came to a compromise to push the building back behind ' the wetlands'. This has compromised some elements of the base concept; aligning the pitch on a north/south orientation and dynamically catching the people as they navigate their way along the canal embankment. It was either this or lose the project altogether.
From the frying pan and into the fire, we then proceeded to send the project out to bid. Not hastily either, as we had already produced 4 copies of the Bill of Quantities. However, unbeknownst to me, it seems like I also have to be the Quantity Surveyor on this job too, on top of planning advisor, lobbyist for esperance and sustainable design as well as project manager.
Our first tender was 5 times higher than the estimated budget. Simple mistakes in specifications and quantities was the cause. Round 2, after 3-4 weeks intense scrutiny of the Bill of Quantities, we re-tendered and got figures closer to the budget.
However all the joyous, sustainable elements of the project have been lost; the grey water and rainwater system for one, as well as a large portion of the roof have been removed.
On top of removing huge parts of the design which were designed with Esperance's running costs in mind, whilst utilising renewable resources (this is what 'sustainable design' is about isn't it?) we've not been able to get VAT exemption on the project , meaning a further 18% reduction of the design. Despite vociferous applause from the UN advisor to Sports , Ministry of Sports and various other powerful NGO's I have not been able to get people to fund the water harvesting aspect of the project which is such a travesty.
We are down to the bare minimum now yet the guts of this project remain intact and are awaiting this to be approved by FIFA. Contractor is in place. What else could stand in our way? Never say never.
Still the fight continues.
'Wetland or no wetland', that is the issue. A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or seasonally. Our site was once a wetland however the designation of it by the local government still is attached, and are vociferously enforcing this.
Representatives from FIFA and the Minister of Sport have attempted to push the scheme forward. Despite the site being bone dry , with the adjacent canal upgraded in 2008 to prevent the bursting of its banks the scheme will either be pushed back a further 20 metres into the site, comprising the design slightly, or a new site will be considered; this scenario would mean a new design.
Daily we await notice , however with the re-organization of the local government the timing of this decision is unclear.
Moving to Rwanda we're at a critical stage in the job. We're about 6weeks behind our program due to non-performance by our local Architect of Record. We prolonged and persevered hoping they would produce the documents we need for tender,but unfortunately we are going to have to appoint a new local Architect. There are plenty of keen individuals and we have several in mind.
Further to this setback we've encountered hurdles with the local development board, when a very late restriction has been imposed upon the site, designating it as a wetland area. Not only late, but problematic, however erroneous and we are challenging this with the Ministry or Sports and the Mayor on our side.
Yes, an unfortunate but a realistic side to this job. Nonetheless I'm in the best location to be dealing with it.
In other news we are collaborating with KIST Architecture School who will work with Esperance in developing ideas for the community elements of the building. I spoke there recently only to find out that the majority of the students live close to the site. Can you get a greater degree of community participation than that?
The design has come to fruition. We've liased with Kobus Carstens of Freewater and implemented Yingli's proposals into the scheme. The two steel shipping containers used to transport the pitch and its accessories have been re-used and designed into the scheme as storage and a water tower,not pumping and controlling the flow of water, but acting as a visual beacon for the centre. They have been placed strategically to demarcate entrance points.
During this period we've had the pleasure of receiving two Harvard Graduates who've volunteered their services for a period of two months. Tiffany Lang and Seung Jin Ham have brought their skills to the project and have produced a beautiful presentation model which they will shortly transport to the ground breaking ceremony in Kigali for Esperance to show off. We hope to also prepare the groundwork for our community workshop whilst we have Tiffany and Seung Jin there.
The tender documentation is almost ready. Our list of contractors is in the waiting and we are ready to submit the scheme for our final building permit.
Oh yes, and of course then there is the football.
My return to Rwanda was initially thwarted by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokul spewing forth a cloud of dust. Once the dust settled I was able to return to the familiar crimson dust of Kigali. It has been hectic to say the least.
The biggest milestone which has been overcome is that Esperance signed for the land with the local District. NOW we have the land!
During my time here I've worked with Patrick , our local Architect of Record and Sierra of MASS Architects to finalize the technical documents and contracts for going to tender. We now have several reputable contractors for our list and are one step closer to going to tender.
In addition to this I visited a hospital in Butaro in the north of Rwanda which is being constructed by MASS Architects , for Partners in Health, to speak with the contractor who is based out of Kigali. I hope to include them on our list. The volcanic theme of my trip re-emerged again as the hospital uses a local volcanic stone for the cladding!
On my return to Capetown we will be ironing out the kinks in the technical documents and hope to be putting a spade in the ground soon.
March has been a very productive month
The scheme has been rationalized in terms of construction and pushed right through to Design Development.
With Axel and Rui(our Lesotho Design Fellow and Volunteer from New Zealand) creating a physical model of the site , critical decisions were made regarding the existing levels and how to enter and access the building.
The roof has become an even more integral part of the design. Not only does it unite and provide shade to the external gathering spaces around the building (to the entrance, to Esperance's area, to the spectators veranda and the players area) but its been developed to harvest all the rain water ( approx 1 million litres per year) which will be filtered for clean drinking water. The rainwater on the pitch will also be harvested to be used to flush toilets and irrigate the landscaping. This has been advanced with the help of Kobus Carstens of 'freewater', who has kindly offered his expertise on a pro-bono basis.
Industriously chasing our DD deadline, we've become aware of how necessary this roof will be, and conscious of tapping into people on the outside world, I made contact with my local radio station at BBC Radio Ulster (In the north of Ireland). Kevin Gannon (our regional program manager) and I did an interview on the Mark Patterson show, streamed live from the Capetown offices, in the hope that the people of my home town will reach into their pockets.
DD has now been submitted and we are now returning to Rwanda to submit the scheme to the local authorities as well as gathering candidates for tendering.
February sees me back at the office working in Capetown to pick up the design and produce the schematic ; the first area overview of the scheme for client feedback.
Several options where tested with the orientation of the pitch and the placement of the building. Rotating the site North-South which is the optimal orientation for a football pitch ( to ensure the players are not playing into the Sun) the scheme takes on a very different form by creating a strong axis to a potential, much needed, pedestrian link along the canal, and in doing so articulates and defines a series of new spaces around the rest of the site.
Having tested this the scheme was run past the client (streetfootballworld)in what we hope to continue in the Capetown office is a series of Design presentations. Several amendments to the scheme were made with it being submitted to FFH and our centre host Esperance.
The difficulty with the site is the gradient. The intention is that when we level the site for the pitch, the soil that is cut out is used to form the rammed earth walls, however it depends on cost; we also hope that this is something the community can get involved in.
How satisfying that would be to know what we removed from the earth, we re-use to sculpt a building truly rooted to its site. The centre is already in Kigali; you can't see it but it resides in the soil and we have to coax it out!
The scheme was well received. Next onto Design Development and returning to Rwanda to investigate construction methods and local procedures.
There was time for Christmas just.
And so I've landed in Kigali, to unfamiliar red soil and quite a significant temperature change from the cold snap which smote Europe. The journey was long but the welcome was sweet and worth the journey. Greeted at the airport by Esperance's entourage consisting of Dominique, Donatien, Angelique and Victor, weary they welcomed me, fed me and let me sleep before the work started.
This week has been jam-packed.
The site was visited and documented. We staked out the boundary of the new centre and agreed this with the District Engineer. Prior to this I met the Director of the School and agreed the placing of the building.
The following days Victor (Sewabana)from Esperance and I whizzed around the city, perched precariously on the back of 'moto-taxis' , visiting local architects, contractors and ministry officials.
I've sampled local buffets ( yet I must confess I have not mastered the mound of food on my plate, referred to locally as 'a volcano'), tried out my Kinyarwanda on passersby and got lost in the dark.
Now the site is finally agreed we have appointed the local architect of record and made some very interesting contacts I now return to my second home to finalise the design. Home to roost? No home to design. Exciting stuff.
Hitting the ground running, I've come to Capetown at a pivotal moment; the opening of the first center in Khayelitsha, the setting up and opening of the new joint office between streetfootballworld and AFH, the FIFA draw and the subsequent arrival of the centre hosts , all happening at once. Incidentally France drew South Africa so don't forget the plight of the Irish....GO SOUTH AFRICA!
This converging of key events has allowed me the opportunity to sit down in person with Esperances' Centre Hosts Dominique Uwimana and Donatien Nsengimana (accompanied by Maren Kroeger). Warmly welcomed we discussed preliminary designs and established the site strategy, which now been sent to the Kigali local authorities for discussions. As well as having an enlightening discussion about local policy and what to expect in Rwanda we discussed the main purpose of my pending visit; I can't wait to meet them on home turf!
The next steps will see the local architects be selected and appointed, a site visit to Rwanda , also meeting and familiarising myself with the local figureheads and consulting parties, and then returning to Capetown to progress the design in our new offices.
Is there time for Christmas?
And so it is, with a swift response 'The Flying Padre' has landed in Capetown and is spreading good will and cheer via direct action through design, soon to be departing for Rwanda ( my moniker is a reference to the eponymous film by Stanley Kubrick)
Joining the ranks of self acclaimed 'superheroes' in Kenya and Mali , I come from the icy climes of Ireland & Scandinavia, with the wit and decision making skills as sharp as our northern European prevailing winds, and a heart and soul as warm as my second home in New Orleans.
I've worked with many non-profits, community groups & housing associations in Ireland,England, Sweden and the USA and have followed the trail now to Africa. I am extremely excited about what lies ahead.
Follow my chronicles of conceptual epiphanies, architectural conversions, the exorcising of bad design, the communion of good design and with the ordaining of a new FFH centre in Rwanda. It will be miraculous!
Warmest regards to all I've met so far from AFH, Sfw , FIFA and Gugelethu.