Interview with 2nd awarded team of Kaira Looro 2022

Interviewed: Shimin Zhou, Wanning Liao, Tianchen Xu, Hanyang Liu, Joseph Ongaco

Shimin	Zhou, Wanning	Liao,	Tianchen	Xu,	Hanyang	Liu,	Joseph	Ongaco 1) Can you tell us more about your team?
We are a team of five graduate students studying at the University of California, Berkeley. We come from unique academic backgrounds which include chemistry, interior architecture, materials science, and landscape architecture. We enjoy working together as a team and brainstorming during the design.

2) What was your feeling when you knew you were among the top projects of the competition?
We were pleasantly excited about the results! We put a lot of thought and research into the construction methods and materiality for the project, with the goal of designing a place that the local community can construct themselves, so it was satisfying to see that our vision for a children’s house might have resonated with the jury as well.

3) Can you briefly explain the concept of your project and which is the relationship between it and the child nutrition?
Our project, called Nest, intends to be a place of healing and education for Baghere Village to help local children recover from malnutrition. More importantly, it should be a place that shows local people more options to lead a healthier life. We also believe that, though architecture alone can not solve all the problems, it can still become a tool and media to get more and more people around the world to pay attention to the child malnutrition problem in that area.

4) Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
For this project our design methodology focused primarily on constructability, material, responding to the environment and creating a comfortable gathering space for the community. How to use the courtyard as an outdoor space not only generates more visual contact, but also improves indoor micro-climate with low budget and local materials is emphasised during the designing.

5) How did the material choice affect your design?
Our focus on straw as a cladding and roofing material which highly adapts to the local climate - we believe that this local material is good for insulation from heat, UV radiation, and precipitation. It is also locally available and inexpensive. And the use of straw as building material is also part of local traditions.

6) Has your project been inspired by anything-in particular, by some project in developing countries or past projects of Kaira Looro?
Our project pulls from many different influences, but we were really inspired by the straw as a material, which led us to look for precedents in Southeast Asia which use straw as a major construction component.

7) How your idea of architecture can reduce child malnutrition in developing countries, and how the local community concerned could perceive this architecture?
We believe that architecture alone does not solve problems as serious as child malnutrition. However, we wanted to use the architecture as both a functional, healing space and an educational tool to expose and educate local communities on what they can do in response to these problems. It is a demonstration of what a healthy lifestyle can look like.

8) From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of architects in dealing with complex issues such as children rights or architectures in developing countries?
Architects have control through their choice in projects that they take on. We are providing them with opportunities to build locally with local materials with the local construction method that is simple and originated from the area so not experienced worker can have job and contribute to the community.

9) The aim of the competition was also to improve the research on the topics of sustainable architecture with natural and recycled materials. How do you feel that contemporary architecture is approaching these topics?
We feel that there is more and more momentum towards sustainability as a minimum requirement in contemporary architecture. In general, we think that’s what contemporary architecture can do. Architecture, as one of the greatest impacts done by humans to Earth, should reflect the pursuit of the era, which is sustainability in our age.

10) The competition registration fee, was devolved to the non profit organization Balouo Salo that helps people in disadvantaged area of Senegal. How it has affected you approach to the competition?
To help people in underdeveloped areas in Senegal was the very root of the design. It is good to know that not only the design can help the people that live there. When we started the design we approached the concept from the cheapest materials that are simple to get by the locals. To follow that strategy, we described each construction step to help them get the building constructed.

11) Your prize is an internship at MCA – Mario Cucinella Architects one of the most prestigious architecture studios in the jury. Can you express your feelings about it?
We are extremely grateful and excited for the opportunity of an internship at MCA! MCA pursues sustainability in their works around the world. It's a precious opportunity to have a working and living abroad experience.

12) The aim of the competition is also to give professional opportunities to young architects with internship prize and visibility at international level, and we wish your team the best achievements for your career. How do you think you will be in next 10 years? According to you, can this award affect your future?
We are gonna be star-architects with our own studio and continue to use our work to speak for justice, sustainability and building a better world! We will be architects with better consideration about people, environment, and society.