Medical Housing


Project Prompt

Create medical housing prototypes for doctors arriving in Roche, Tanzania to work with the Village Life Outreach Project (VLOP). 

Graduate Research Studio at University of Cincinnati
Team: Professor Michael Zaretsky in collaboration with Village Life Outreach Project and ARUP Engineers
Location: Roche, Tanzania
Time Period: 10 weeks
Role: Design Research and Architectural Design



One of the biggest challenges was learning how the building industry worked in Tanzania. There is no running water or electricity, thus construction relied on hand labor. The building needed to be completely self-sufficient for users, and the building design needed to respect the local vernacular and capture the cultural identity of the people.

Research: What is African Architecture?  

We began our research with understanding traditional African architecture and the Lou people in Roche, Tanzania. Their traditional homes are constructed of mud, clay, and cow dung. The roof is constructed of wood, sisal stems, and papyrus stems, and thatched with grass. Traditional buildings are formed around a “cour,” which is a courtyard for activities such as cleaning, gardening, and cooking.

Interviews with the local community show that people did not want a vernacular building type, but rather one that appeared more modernized and progressive. However, the idea of the “cour” was still critical to their way of living.


Engineering and building process 

Working with ARUP engineers, our design team researched the use of the interlocking stabilizing soil bricks (ISSB) which allows for safe, modern construction in Africa. ISSB is created manually with a brick press, and responds well to the seismic conditions of the region. It is significantly more stable than traditional brickwork, and requires less grouting (thus less labor). 

Final Design

Our design for this housing prototype uses the idea of the "cour" and ISSB technology with other traditional housing materials. The final design encompassed traditional ways of living in a modern, respectful design language.