The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2019
Berkeley Prize 2019

Shanice Nyokabi Proposal

Becoming part of the narrative for change

There is something about Nairobi that draws my eye to it. Beyond the fact that it holds a special place in my heart as the city where I was born and raised, the place where I have planted my roots and found my own. Perhaps it is the potential I see on the virgin soil,or the historical tales told by the cracks on the walls of the old town buildings, the old meeting the new at sharp angles, and the new forcefully paving its way into the system. Nairobi is a young city, hopeful and bright eyed with anticipative developments cropping up left right and center. Even though these paint an optimistic picture in the future of Nairobi in terms of infrastructure and the building economy, the concept of sustainability has not caught up with the speed of growth and expansion.

I have come to the realization that if we are not careful as future architects, the same intricately designed buildings with intriguing forms and outstanding facades will continue to be the same thing that harms an equally intricate natural environmental system.Instead of the man-made and the natural complementing each other as healthy rival competing components, it will become a cut-throat competition swinging in favor of man.This is the state of affairs in numerous rapidly developing economies across the globe where sustainability is considered immaterial to millennium development goals.

All this said however, when I walk through Nairobi’s streets, I often unexpectedly find myself excited at the possibility of what could be. I find myself tasked with the idea of being a part of the ideal that will take it to that place, the place where the great cities meet to share in their splendor. I am subconsciously reminded that I am a steward of this land and not its rightful owner, and should therefore strive to leave it better than I found it, to do more good than harm.It is my belief that though some of the damages already inflicted on mother nature are irreversible, we should endeavor not to languish in our past failure but to find a new equilibrium.If architects and future architects such as myself are willing to unlearn techniques that harm the environment and assimilate eco-friendly design methods,environmental compliance can be attained in the Kenyan cities, slums , suburbs and the world as a whole.

I have great confidence in environmental design and the optimistic future it grants young developing countries like Kenya. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that it can only function if approached from a practical angle, rather than a whimsical wish upon a star. In order to fully comprehend green architecture, I am willing to get my hands dirty. To go beyond the task of design and get involved in the construction process.The place where the design meets the site. I cannot think of a better way to understand materials, building techniques and the basics of sustainable architecture, besides tactile interaction.

I enjoy working with my hands, I feel it liberates me and enables me to express myself in ways sometimes words and designs on paper cannot. This is why the critical concrete program is perfect for me. It is a three week program packed with daily activities and sessions tailored towards gaining more practical construction tools. The program provides a holistic environment for students such as myself whose school days are made up of hours of theory classes with little to no practical work on a real site.Critical concrete therefore blends the theoretical and practical aspects of architectural education. It is an experience beyond my classroom, my country, my continent and the comfort of my close circle of friends.Moreover, it will push me out of the abstractive and into the practical construction world where I will inevitably be forced to learn and grow.

The program occurs in two parts that aim to educate students on real life challenges which will equip me with various skills that are fundamental in the construction industry.The practical part, the one I am most excited about, is where I will get to do actual construction during the day under the supervision of senior architects and designers. Together with other like minds, I will be able to learn the practicalities of traditional building techniques while learning sustainable building techniques developed in the critical concrete lab. Through this refurbishing project, I will have a chance to leave an actual physical mark in Porto, Portugal and acquire an unforgettable experience in return.

The afternoons at critical concrete will be fully dedicated to theoretical input in the form of presentations, group discussions and lectures that intertwine with lessons obtained from the construction site. These will enable me to be under the first hand tutelage of industry experts who are well versed in the inner workings of all matters environmental design and practical sustainable architecture. Through that kind of interaction and dialogue with professionals who have gone before me, and peers who are in ‘ít’ with me, I will more than likely return to my country more knowledgeable and with a better skill set to handle challenges on site and within the design environment.

In the ample period of three weeks, I will be able to forge relationships with people from different walks of life, people different from me but similar in our yearn to harness our diversity to bring change. I will have the opportunity to engage with them on matters relating to architecture as well as other global social issues that peak my interest such as politics , religion and sports that will steer us to find middle grounds in our diverseness, Since different people from different parts of the world participate in the program , I am certain that I will experience a variety of cultures and opinions and in turn share my own. This will be the foundation of social and professional connections that will bread an architectural global village that offers solutions for related problems globally.

Getting the chance to attend this years summer program will be the opportunity of a lifetime, it could set the ball rolling as I prepare to go into the real world as a practicing professional. I will be better equipped with appropriate tools as I strive towards offering solutions that will better Nairobi to make it a city of innovations and a source of reference for future generations.

Website: Itinerary: Week 1 - design, feedback sessions & first working steps Week 2/3 - building

The 140 hours course will consist of: Practical workshops: Monday-Friday 9am - 5pm

Theoretical workshops: Monday-Friday 6pm - 7.30pm

Budget: Programme fee( includes accommodation and 2 meals): 1343.49 USD (EUR 1190)

Round trip flight: 1446 USD

Living allowances ,food, individual excursions:900 USD(3 weeks)

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