Rethinking the house form in poor areas: researching a pedagogical methodology to improve self-build housing in Angola by creating a culturally and ecologically sensitive expert system

Studying housing requires a multidisciplinary approach in order to come up with comprehensive solutions for physical, social and cultural needs. This thesis intends to bring those needs into the process of creating the house, by proposing a methodology to integrate construction-related, environment, cultural and everyday-life aspects into the definition of individual housing profiles. Furthermore, it intends to show how creating an expert system will allow an incremental construction, by taking into account complex constraints, such as cultural and technical ones, based on a pedagogical and interactive approach towards the inhabitant. This research arises from the low levels of habitability of self-build housing in Ondjiva, in southern Angola. In most cases, houses are not equipped with basic infrastructure and do not adequately respond to climatic demands, which leads to the development of unhealthy environments. Additionally, people live in self-build houses in the city in a contradictory way: on the one hand, by keeping deeply rooted cultural and traditional ways of life and, on the other, by wanting to cut with the traditional image, because it is associated with the opposite of “modern”, a term commonly associated to better living conditions. As a result, self-build houses in the city tend to follow Western or more contemporary models, which do not ensure culturally sensitive solutions for local inhabitants. It is urgent to find culturally and technically adequate solutions that will foster sustainable housing construction in these areas, which implies searching for multidisciplinary and holistic solutions, since merely technical solutions can be detrimental to the diversity of ways of life characteristic of contemporary cities; comfortable interior spaces will not be enough if they won’t allow the continuity of cultural specificities. Furthermore, this research was made with the conviction that we can neither change the current building actors nor impose our minimum standards on local people’s conception of a house. This could put at risk their specific ways of living and ideal of a house, leading almost certainly to more serious and complex social problems. The creation of an expert system is proposed as a tool to make knowledge available to those who most need it, making it possible for people who already build their own houses to start doing so in an improved and more sustainable way, in a context where experts are nearly almost absent from house building processes. This thesis is addressed to the Kwanyama people – the most predominant ethnic group in the Kwanyama region – and rests on the notion that, without a design oriented towards the inhabitants’ specific needs, their specific ways of life won’t find the support to exist and develop.

    Keywords: Activity systems ; bioclimatic architecture ; expert system ; Kwanyama culture ; self-build housing

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 6962 (2015)
    Programme doctoral Architecture et sciences de la ville
    Faculté de l'environnement naturel, architectural et construit
    Institut du développement territorial
    Laboratoire de sociologie urbaine
    Jury: Prof. Vincent Kaufmann (président) ; Dr Luca Giovanni Pattaroni, Prof. Manuel de Arriaga Brito Correia Guedes (directeurs) ; Prof. Vítor Manuel Matos Carvalho Araújo, Prof. Carlos Sangreman, Dr Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues (rapporteurs)

    Public defense: 2015-12-21


    Co-supervision with: Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) da Universidade de Lisboa, Doutoramento em Arquitectura


    Record created on 2016-02-23, modified on 2016-08-09


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