Context & Orientation
The existing site is located in the urban area of Sogakope. Sogakope is in southern Ghana near the Volta River. The partially developed site is at one corner of a prominent intersection and is opposite an established Church. Currently, there are two buildings already on the site. a guest house, the proceeds of which are intended to support the other programs offered at the site, and a small private residence. Like other local sites that have hospitality based operations, the grounds are expected to be enclosed by a concrete security wall in order to create a protected compound for both the children attending the youth center programs and the guests of the existing guest house.
The southern end of the site was selected as the location for the new Youth Center so as to maximize the potential for courtyard and car parking space. The 1,350 s.f. youth center is expected to be a somewhat flexible space that can accommodate a reception area with room to stow back-packs, a 3,000-book capacity library, a computer lab with room for fifteen users, private office space, classroom space, toilet rooms, and some storage. The classroom is designed to be used as one large gathering space or as two separate classrooms. Portions of the library shelving are movable so that this space can also be arranged as two separate spaces with the help of simple locally constructed screens. The flat roof of the Youth Center itself could potentially serve as a gathering space as well. This space could even possibly become a second story as a second project phase. A separate utility kitchen is situated at the rear of the Youth Center and is oriented so that it serves a sheltered outdoor dining pavilion that is available to the entire compound. Finally, located in the most prominent corner of the site and positioned so that it bridges the “private” and “public” realms is a drink shop with a “pass-through” window to the exterior.
Materials & Form
The materials chosen include concrete blocks fabricated on-site and cast-in-place concrete. Lumber is not readily available and metal roofing sheets are sold at such a high premium that their use has been kept to a minimum. The other existing buildings on the site were built with the same type of concrete blocks and therefore the intent is that both the existing context and construction methods are appropriately represented in the design of the Youth Center.
The form of the Youth Center takes into consideration YCC’s desire to maintain an open courtyard at the center of the site. Firstly, space is maximized by integrating the walls of the building directly into the anticipated security wall. Secondly, the form of the roof steps back so that the courtyard is afforded a significant amount of daylight, and any claustrophobic impressions are mitigated. The form of the building also offers several opportunities for desirable shade by creating overhangs at the entrances and drink shop for example. The region is, not surprisingly very hot, but it is also subject to monsoon-like rains which result in conditions that will force people to seek shelter at those same overhangs. Drainage of the flat main roof and the pitched overhangs is expected to be methodically directed and then captured for re-use by controlled drainage to rain-barrels and a designated “soak-away” area. Daylight within the space is primarily provided by a series of clearstory windows. The demand for wall-space to accommodate the library shelving and the dual purpose of the Youth Center’s southern building / security wall force the bottom of the windows up to a height above 8 feet. The computer lab and library materials are protected from the inclement conditions as well as vandalism by glazing and metal bars or “burglar proofs”. The window panes would be operable in order to take advantage of the ventilation opportunities afforded by the off-set high roof of the concrete building. Naturally circulated air and abundant daylight reduce electricity demand. The new Youth Center is expected to be both self-sustainable and dynamic: a true reflection of the Youth Creating Change and Bright Start Vision organizations.