Junipers in June – 2

JUNIPERS IN JUNE – 2

Mad scars o’ Madagascar

For Junipers in June – 1 click  here.

This blog has mostly been my escape from work, but since last month, I’ve decided to place certain stories from times related to travels due to it. Through my years both as an architect and landscape architect & planner in the last decade, I have been lucky to work in over 80 projects spread across over a dozen countries in five continents. I thank my lucky stars for the exposure it provided me to so many different countries and cultures, landscapes and urban realities, the textures of myriad earths, the scents of many-splendoured forests and the colours and chaos and calm of lands distant and warm, as well as close-by and pristine. There are so many stories, too many tales, so many tears and smiles…..life, despite its ups and downs, has been full, for various reasons and in myriad ways.

As I mentioned earlier, June is my birthday month, so I get to write more as an indulgence. No-holds bar ricocheting pen-prose for pleasure. So – yet another.

One of the most educative and adventurous projects I worked on (albeit the one in Kabul, Afghanistan takes the cake) was building a school for children in the African island of Madagascar, in 2002, in its capital city of Antananarivo, funded by the Aga Khan Development Network. Madagascar has a very unique one-of-a-kind flora and fauna system. An excerpt of its unique disposition in the natural world (from wiki):

The prehistoric breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in complete isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot in which over 80% of its plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth. These are dispersed across a variety of ecoregions, broadly divided into eastern and south-central rain forest, western dry forests, southern desert and spiny forest. The island’s diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are severely threatened by human settlement and traditional slash-and-burn practices (tavy) which have denuded Madagascar of 95% of its original forest cover. Under the administration of former President Marc Ravalomanana, the government of Madagascar partnered with the international community to implement large-scale conservation measures tied to ecotourism as part of the national development strategy. However, under Rajoelina’s caretaker government there has been a dramatic increase in illegal logging of precious woods and the poaching and sale of threatened species such as lemurs in Madagascar’s many national parks, several of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Below a few images from the conceptual design stage of the school….

For projects like these, I like to take inspiration from the land itself, its colors, smells, history, stories, unique constraints and opportunities, the dreams of the local people, their reality. And the contours, the climate and the specificities of the site itself. While I worked on both the architecture and landscape architecture, the following images are from the latter. The panels on the colors and patterns were made from images of the island’s unique endemic and often endangered species. The intention behind finding connections between shapes and patterns placed in the entry courts was to make the school into a literal ‘learning ground’ for the island’s future generation so they could appreciate the ecologic heritage they had inherited and stop the present slash-and-burn techniques of destruction. Each courtyard and school subset had its own theme – inspired by the island’s flora and fauna and its local handicrafts, woodwork and art, as well as the sentiments expressed in local folk poems. The connections seen in the various natural and man-made motifs of the island were incorporated into the design.

Click to enlarge, to read the text, and soak in the colors of this unique endangered island.   .

Colors and Patterns of Madagascar

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Landscape plan for the school, plant species selected and the reasons behind the selections. (Click to enlarge and read.)

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Sketches depicting the internal larger courtyards of the school (click to enlarge) In tropical / equatorial climates courtyards act not only as thermal insulators but as convenient linkages of connected safe open spaces between buildings.

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Entry court concept for the Nursery School (click to enlarge)

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Entry court concept for the Primary School (click to enlarge)

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Entry court concept for the Secondary School (click to enlarge)

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Principal court concept between the Administrative block, recreational facilities and the High School (click to enlarge)

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