In 2009 I was invited by Jo Noble to Kampala, Uganda to participate in the design of a new performing arts center for Kika Troupe, an African dance and drumming company who recruits (and schools) orphans and trains them as performers in what now is a wildly popular regional entertainment - on land already purchased for the purpose.
Working with local architects, we discussed the parameters of the project: a stage perhaps in the round as an echo of African story circles; open to the equatorial climate, but covered against the rain, seating about 800, with the option to house other events including weddings; and constructed of local sustainable materials.
The company continues to perform in locations and venues in Uganda and throughout the region. Kaddu Yusef, the company’s founder and leader, provides housing and schooling for all of their members
on Lake Victoria
I created a design for a three-sided arena anchored at the corners by small buildings which create entrances and house dressing rooms, control booths, work, office, and storage areas. The buildings are connected by risers with passages underneath to allow crossover between. One set of risers are wider to provide table seating.
The facility is covered with petal-like inverted roofs to channel water away. They are covered with locally made and inexpensive corrugated steel. The gaps between are covered with smaller overlapping roofs covered with clear corrugated fiberglass and raised above the main roofs to allow air flow.
All solid buildings are to be constructed using blocks pressed from soil and a small amount of concrete in a technique invented by a professor at the local university. Ugandan buildings are commonly constructed of “burnt brick”, a process which both pollutes and denudes the forests. Wood, as I learned, is not used as a construction material because it is devoured by the ubiquitous termites who’s mounds dot the landscape.
Seating is common, cheap, and ubiquitous resin chairs. In this case I arranged them in patterns reminiscent of African woven baskets.
Cameras and projectors in the corner buildings can provide images above the opposite audience risers., ensuring that no one is looking at backs.
At this point, the facility is yet to be realized.