This post is part of our series exploring the ways people and communities reuse, recycle and dispose of waste around the world.
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I saw a presentation by Nina Maritz in San Francisco in 2006, and I have continued to think about her approach periodically over the years.
Nina Maritz is a Namibian architect whose work reflects local building strategies and is built with local labor.
One project that showcases her work is the Habitat Research and Development Center in Windhoek, Namibia. Among many goals and activities listed for the center are “promote sustainable and environmentally appropriate housing” and “develop local skills in sustainable housing construction methods.” The completed project is site appropriate, made from local materials, and uses a number of passive cooling methods to keep the occupants comfortable. Each design decision addresses a number of design challenges (for example, by using poles from invasive species, she could abstain from using rare local hardwood).
What I found particularly striking about Nina Maritz’s work, and what I keep returning to, is the careful reuse of materials throughout the project.
Wherever possible, it seems, the architect worked with local workers and artisans to reuse materials such as corrugated metal, storage drums, cans, and tires, in both functional and decorative ways. While this approach is difficult in many places because of stringent building code and the expense of labor, it evokes an entirely different way of looking at the world, where every object holds potential not just for its intended use but also for future uses.