Casa de la Mujer a multi-purpose, humanitarian centre for Saharawi refugees funded by international cooperation, is located in the desert region of Rabouni (Tindouf), Algeria. A training centre of the National Union of Saharawi Women, it mostly concentrates on computer literacy courses.
Built in six months by a local builder and his team of young workers, the structure was completed in June 2006. Furnishing is now being completed with the installation of a satellite dish at ground level outside the building.
The construction is in the traditional building style found in Mali, southern Algeria and Hassan Fathy in Upper Egypt. Spatial organisation is simple: a 15 m square block crossed by a central corridor with a barrel vaulted roof leads off to four domed volumes. Inserted between two volumes are two small courts with openings to the outside and accessible from the rooms and corridor. At the far end of the courts lie washing facilities and rudimentary communal toilets with a decanting, septic tank.
The 40 cm walls are in non-stabilised adobe bricks made in the “campamentos”. The geometrical patterns of the “claustra”, or open brickwork windows, protect from sun and wind and accelerate incoming air flows. The whitewashed walls add to the luminosity without altering ambient temperatures.
Appropriate static loading techniques improved on local construction methods. This was especially indicated in the light of the devastation caused by flash flooding after torrential rains in March 2006, not least to the centre itself which was still under construction and without a roof. Care was taken to:
- site the building on slightly raised ground (not in a hollow or on
a slope), to avoid water accumulation on any side;
- provide sturdy foundations: although only 30 cm deep,
the foundation slab is in...
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