Where are they now: Hamish Garry

Hamish Garry helps to build a hall in Moshi, Tanzania, watched by local children. Photo: supplied.
Hamish Garry helps to build a hall in Moshi, Tanzania, watched by local children. Photo: supplied.
Hamish Garry, formerly of John McGlashan College, is helping to build a rammed-earth hall in Tanzania after volunteering to work with Shift Design, a group of young architectural graduates from Wellington. The build is being carried out for a Tanzanian NGO and involves volunteers from New Zealand, Europe and Tanzania working alongside local tradespeople.

We’re building a hall at Magereza Primary School, which has a roll of 900 and is on the grounds of a prison. The building is made of pressed earth blocks, is 16 x 8m and will function as a dining hall and municipal centre . . .

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In addition to our official workforce, we have had a 900-strong, part-time staff of enthusiastic school children.

The children and teachers think it is beautiful and it has plenty of locals talking. There is a strong vernacular history of earth-building here. However, contemporary and institutional buildings are overwhelmingly made from concrete. What we are doing has been challenging for local engineers, who are unused to this material at such a large scale. We have been using the New Zealand earth-building standards as a guide and thankfully a destructive test of a sample of block yielded excellent results, which helped reassure the engineers. Steel and bamboo reinforcing will ensure the building’s seismic integrity.

The biggest challenge is communicating with the local builders and coming to understand how Tanzanian institutions get things done; the pace, manners and processes are very different to New Zealand . . .

The cost was US$20,000 [which came from] crowd-sourcing and participant fees.

My willingness to volunteer came from my interest in sustainable building . . . Sustainable design is going to become an increasingly important aspect of design in general. [In the future], I’d like to be involved with sustainable energy or transport initiatives.

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