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Djibouti’s new medina for kids

Published at: 25 January 2016

In one of the hottest places on Earth a new SOS children’s village brings shelter from the harsh world outside

In Djibouti, which has one of the world's highest levels of malnutrition for children, a place of refuge can’t just be a place to escape the hardship of life but it needs also be a shelter from the incredible heat that faces the residents of this equatorial country. It’s what got Spanish architecture firm Urko Sanchez Architects a recent Architecture for Social Gain Award for its SOS Children’s Village, which was commissioned by international children’s rights non governmental organisation SOS Kinderdorf.

The village is situated in Tadjourah – a place known for one of the hottest temperatures on earth. Built on a very small plot and designated with a 15-house requirement, the shelter needed to provide a safe environment for children to play and open spaces to build a sense of community.

“With these conditions in mind, we decided that building the homes in a very local way – narrow streets that would shade one another, providing natural ventilation and corridors of wind flow – was the right way to go. In the end, what we did was develop and design a small village with open, pedestrian-only streets and playing fields for children and teenagers, almost an internal playground of gingerbread-house elements and slides. 
The houses in this village are closed to the outside; they look inwards, protecting residents from the elements, while providing privacy and excellent ventilation...In terms of distribution, all houses follow the same scheme but are arranged in different ways, placed close to each other giving shade to one another and generating alleys between them in an apparent disordered way. Natural ventilation and sun shading was intensely studied, introducing natural ventilation towers where needed” the architects explain on their website.

It’s a sensitive response to a difficult brief but for the 100 children that call the village home there is no place better.

See more of the project on Urko Sanchez Architects’ website.

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