Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture

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Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture

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  • Project Name: Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes
  • Student Name: Blessing Sulaiman
  • Awards: Nominated for Dezeen School Shows
  • Softwares/Plugins: Rhinoceros 3d , SketchUp , V-Ray , Adobe Photoshop
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Excerpt: Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes’ is an architecture thesis on regenerative architecture by Blessing Sulaiman from the School of Architecture and Cities – University of Westminster that seeks to address the social and environmental effects faced by the Arlit community, based in Niger, over the years. The initiative aims to create a self-sustaining ecosystem and resilient community by integrating historical trade with contemporary issues, primarily through the implementation of dust barriers that collect harmful particles.

Introduction: This architecture thesis explores the significant social and environmental effects that the Arlit community, based in northern-central Niger, has faced over the previous forty years. The Sub-Saharan landscape has suffered significant damage due to widespread mining operations in the desert and pollution of aquifers.

In a realm where the mining of Uranium Ore binds the destiny of the Twin Mining towns at the expense of France’s appetite for nuclear power. Even though Niger provides 70% of France’s power, 85% of its people live in darkness and are entangled in the web of exploitation woven by the country’s former colonial overlords.

The locals ignore the radioactive spectre and continue with their goal of eradicating poverty, completely unaware of the silent threat that is always present. Radioactive dust clouds are released by controlled explosions in the open pit mine, while mountains of toxic waste continue to exist, seemingly forever.

To address this environmental scar, electrostatic sand harvesters that use solar energy stored in batteries will generate an energy potential that can collect dangerous airborne dust. This concept is unique as it incorporates cultural traditions that used to be vital to the Tuareg community’s existence. It further seeks to establish a new, safe trade route, thus bringing these historic roads back to life.

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Site Context

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Arlit’s Location | The Colonial Exploitation of Niger
Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Site Images

The people of Arlit have witnessed the destruction of the Sub-Saharan landscape for forty years as a result of massive deep desert excavation and contaminated local water aquifers. While Niger ranks 187th out of 191 countries on the UN development index, French government-backed mining companies like Oreno (formerly Areva) report profits exceeding 311 million euros.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Left in the Dust | Niger’s Uranium District
Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Stakeholder Diagram

The health of the 80,000 residents of Arlit and Akonan is in jeopardy due to mining, as contaminated water wells contain radiation 500 times higher than that of standard UN levels. As the world clamours for eco-capitalist ideals, the people of Arlit pay the price. With Areva’s mining operations expanding, further north. A cleaner future for the West means a darker reality for those ensnared in the shadows of exploitation.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Uranium’s Global Legacy | Whispers in the Wind

After 40 years of uranium mining, Arlit is left in the shadows, causing cultural erosion. Powering distant homes while its resources dwindle. The children of once hopeful workers struggle with economic distress and consider going back to the nomadic Tuareg lifestyle that their ancestors abandoned.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Site Images

Amidst this desolation, the Tuareg people’s renowned defiance of French forces reverberates, their tenacity an unstoppable force. Now that the Sahara and uranium mining are posing a threat, can the Tuareg adopt a strategy to revive the desert’s life force by cleaning up contaminated aquifers, building a robust ecosystem, and providing a ray of hope in the face of hardship?

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Great Orient Express Route | Great Orient Express

Trans-Saharan Railway: The Trans-Saharan Railway, a large-scale railroad initiative, was a symbol of French colonialism in Africa, tainted by deceit and exploitation. Initially welcomed as a symbol of development, the railway was plagued by financial mismanagement and never came to fruition. This left a legacy of hardship for African labourers and colonial subjects. The hypocrisy of French colonial goals is evident in the contrast between the grandiose rhetoric of colonial propaganda and the harsh realities faced by those involved in construction. Despite the grandiose hopes for a national renaissance, the colonial endeavour in Africa mainly served to further French interests at the cost of African lives.

Design Process

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Cultural Typologies

The design process began with addressing the pressing issue of harmful dust particles, leading to the development of electrostatic sand catchers. This innovative technology effectively reduces the spread of dust particles by producing an electrical potential that draws the particles to a specific barrier.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Facade Studies
Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Historical Courtyardrisation

Furthermore, the inclusion of a wide range of cultural factors had a major impact on the typologies incorporated into the scheme. The key sources of inspiration were the skin- and bone-like structures reminiscent of the Tuareg people, as well as the traditional Agadez architecture made of clay, adobe, and earth brick that dates back to the Songhai and Mali empires.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Conceptual Model Exploration | Fire Strategy Plan 1
Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Initial Sketched Proposal

Contemporary interpretations of these historic structures were created as part of the design approach to bring these rich cultural practices into the present day. An effective and culturally relevant scheme emerged by integrating advanced technologies with traditional design elements.

Final Outcome

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Site Planometric | Overcoming Colonial Exploits
Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Site Section

This proposal is an initiative centred on the revitalization of the ancient Tuareg caravan routes. Its key feature is a linear cityscape that was created to honour and conserve the rich heritage found along these historical pathways. This pays homage to the legacy of these routes and aims to catalyse industries, especially for the younger Arlit population whose prospects are dwindling.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Electrostatic Sand Harvesters | The Veil of Purification
Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Courtyard View

The project seeks to revive the essence of traditional productive practices like metalworking, fabric dyeing, jewellery craftsmanship, and desert agriculture. While simultaneously addressing the pressing challenges posed by the persistent threat of uranium extraction, which continues to cast a shadow over the region.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Views
Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Views

Through the integration of the revival of historical trades with a response to contemporary issues, the initiative seeks to foster a self-sustaining ecosystem and a resilient community. The main aspect of the proposed strategy is the implementation of dust barriers that are positioned to collect harmful airborne dust particles using electrostatic charge.

Lower soil pollution levels from the use of sand catchers provide the ideal growing conditions for these resilient crops. By using careful crop selection and cultivation methods, the project aims to ensure the long-term food security and economic viability of the local populations.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Sustainability Strategy

Syntropic Farming for the Reversal of Desertification provides a comprehensive approach to ecosystem restoration and soil regeneration. By replicating natural forest ecosystems, this promotes biodiversity, soil fertility, and water retention, slowing and even reversing the effects of desertification.

Tuareg Trails of Tomorrow: Re-imagining Arlit’s Future Along Ancient Trade Routes | Masters Design Thesis on Regenerative Architecture
Elevation from Mine

Conclusion: As a symbol of the devastation caused by colonialism in the past, the proposal anticipates a future in which sustainable elements coexist peacefully with the historical legacies to support a new community.

[This Academic Project has been published with text submitted by the student]

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