Over the last few months a group of eighteen fifth year Architecture students at the University of Southern California have been working to develop masterplan concepts for an orphanage in Kitwe, Zambia. The results of their efforts are nothing less than inspiring.
The need is huge in Kitwe with an estimated ten percent of its population being orphans. Think of it. Sixty thousand homeless children in one city. How can we not do something?
Pastors Steve and Deborah Powell have been doing something. For seventeen years they have travelled to minister to the people of Kitwe, founding the Destined to Live the Good Life Orphanage several years ago in response to a pull and call they could not deny. Since its founding they have been working to enlarge the orphanage’s capacity and capabilities, ministering not only to the children but to the entire community.
In the fall of 2012 the USC School of Architecture accepted the orphanage as a senior design studio project. Over the course of the semester we were privileged to visit with the students several times and watch their designs evolve as they responded to the design challenge.
- Provide a “family home” environment for residents
- Able to expand via phased development in increments of 50 residents
- Demonstrate basic infrastructure requirements and options
- Use project development and operation to engage the community
- Maintain the current support benchmark of $40USD per resident per month
- Environmental and social integrity
- Respect for people, purpose and place
- Educate, inspire, encourage and mentor
- Masterplan the existing site to support 200 residents
- Living, classroom (K-12), food service, clinic, administration spaces
- Athletic fields and gardens
- Site security
The Challenge to Students
- Create a new environment for residents and staff
- Inspire residents to dream, envision, and believe in a better future
- Heal the wounds of broken families and trusts
- Change the future
I was impressed by the quality and creativity of the designs developed by six teams of students, but I was impressed more by their maturity and motivation. This was not a typical studio, they could have opted for others that might be more impressive on their CV’s as they look toward entering the professional world. These students, however, responded to a call of passion with their own passion – and it shows.
With fundraising efforts underway we hope to take a small team of professors and students to Kitwe during the next few months for a week of technical work. This will include surveys, soils testing, conversations with local code authorities, and dialoguing with the construction community. Concluding this phase will lay the groundwork for the next stage of design – turning concept into specific plans.
A Personal Note
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge and credit two important people. Professors Alice Kimm of John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects and Eui-Sung Yi of Morphosis Architects and The NOW Institute not only agreed to make this project a part of USC’s curriculum; each also invested their own time in helping shape the vision of the orphanage’s future.
Finally, a note to the students. I am sure each of them took their own journey over the course of the semester as they worked through this project. Possibly, some of them were affected in ways that will make a difference in their lives. They should know, however, that their energy, creativity, commitment and perspective made a difference to us. They further inspired and challenged us. They took our initial vision that seemed a stretch and gave back to us visions that are grander, will have more impact, and which will inspire communities toward a greater goal and better future.