31/01/2018 13:17 SAST | Updated 31/01/2018 13:23 SAST

Malawian Church By SA Architects Inspires Architecture For Change

A circular design attempts to protect and safeguard the sense of community in Chimphamba.

A dilapidated church in rural Malawi inspired a group of Johannesburg-based architects to develop a low-budget, eco-friendly, and spiritually inspiring structure for the community to worship in, and it could soon win a major international award.

The collective of architects who call themselves Architecture For A Change were invited by a grassroots movement of young people called Youth Of Malawi to offer a solution to the Chimphamba village church, which was collapsing and falling to pieces.

Architecture For A Change

Architecture For A Change developed an inspired response that worked collaboratively with community builders to look at their own lives for inspiration. Together they discovered geometric shapes prevalent in their own lives, such as cylindrical forms that resonated with a sense of safety and protection for the community.

"The people of rural Malawi create cylindrical protection walls around small trees to protect them from animals during initial growth. Cylindrical bird or chicken coops are made from woven sticks, and one of the most evident cylindrical shapes seen in the community are maize storage structures that the people store their harvest in," a statement about the team's project reveals.

Architecture For A Change

Architecture For A Change

They embraced the local cylinders as a metaphor for the design: "A space that will protect and safeguard the sense of community in Chimphamba."

The cylindrical spaces also enabled them to incorporate sustainable approaches into the design.

Architecture For A Change

"Essentially the building is a round cylinder, with three boxes that have been inserted into it. The boxes are constructed from local brick, to match existing structures in the village. The first box serves as a foyer into the building, and the second, taller box serves as a ventilation tower. The ventilation tower generates natural ventilation through a "heat stack": the tower is heated by the sun, causing hot air to rise towards the top of the tower. In return, this creates a suction at the bottom, drawing fresh air into the church from the exterior."

The Chimphamba church is in the running for ArchDaily's Building of the Year 2018, on which you can vote here.