Volunteers offer Design Talent


A group of more than 50 architects, engineers, professors and students from across the UAE have volunteered to design an orphanage in the African state of Tanzania.

The volunteers – expatriates and Emiratis – are meeting in Dubai for a series of workshops to design a structure that will be home to about 300 young people.

Tasks are being allocated to different groups -to work on the orphanage’s foundation, walls, roof, rain-water collection, garden and sports facilities.


“We wanted to get architects, designers and engineers to come together and use their skills to do something good,” said Sareh Ameri, one of the founders of the group – called Open Source Arc – and a managing partner at Dubai company Resysta Building Material.

“It’s not always about people giving money but it’s about the energy and enthusiasm. People are giving their time to design something for people they have never met and will never meet. The main purpose is the charity element. It’s really rewarding.”

George Katodrytis, a professor of architecture at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and one of the volunteers said: “Open Source Arc designed another similar project already, a small primary school in Cameroon which was completed few years ago.

“For the current project a representative of the charity organisation in Tanzania who is based in Dubai approached us to discuss how we can help them with the design and building of the orphanage.

“The first phase will accommodate 50 children and eventually this number will rise to about 300. The site is outside (the country’s capital) Dar Es Salaam in a predominately Muslim population area.

“We are developing our design looking at local culture, materiality and methods of construction, landscaping, typologies of building types and the flexibility of a master plan for young children with no parents or homes.”

It is intended for the completed structure to become a model of similar institutions to be developed in Africa.

It’s organisers also emphasised how it is giving students a way to work on a project which is more than just classroom theory.

“There is also an incredible energy and willingness among these designers to demonstrate the ethical aspect and ‘duty of care’ of their profession rather than just to design a commercial product,” said Katodrytis.

“For most participants this is their first real building project – and what a way it is to start their careers. Each team focuses on different parts of the master plan and working towards comprehensive design. We have discussions and at the end of each workshop we have presentations. We meet in at Raw Coffee warehouse in Quoz graciously given to us to use for free.”

The team members said they had also been offered help by businesses in the region.

Katodrytis said: “A number of consultants and material companies in the UAE have also approached us offering to help with specialised expertise especially in structural and mechanical engineering as well as provide the project with free materials for the construction.” 

Work is set to start on site in the later part of 2014 and completed in stages until 2017. 

Katodrytis said: “Driving from Dar Es Salaam with its dense slums to our site in the Mkuranga region which is full of informal rural settlements, a drive that takes about an hour and 30 minutes, one cannot avoid seeing evidence of poverty, overpopulation and lack of infrastructure.

“There is a serious problem with orphan children because of broken families and poverty but also because of HIV and Aids. The project will be the ‘home’ of children between the ages of six months and 18 years old.

“We want to turn the project to a wider community place to give children a rich environment to live in and interact until they become independent. It is a difficult project but we hope that through architecture to make small changes that can have a big and positive effect.”

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