Retooling Gabon

This studio is dedicated to reimagining the future of Gabon’s capital, Libreville, in the wake of recent developments in the country. Gabon holds a unique position in Africa. Referred to as Africa’s Eden, it has the second largest rain forest in the world and with the stated goal of becoming the first carbon neutral country, it recently set aside 11% of its land to become national parks, a ratio of protected territory second only to Costa Rica. As it addresses a projected growth in tourism and urban development to accommodate this change, Gabon is confronting the economic viability of environmental action at a scale of global concern. Given this unprecedented opportunity it is important to ask what will be the shape of Gabon’s future. In ecological and urban terms, the answer to this question will serve as a new model for an African nation and capital in the 21st Century.

The Park City Boundary
The capital of Gabon is the city of Libreville with a small population of less than one million inhabitants. To confront Libreville’s growth and development within the surrounding National Parks, this studio presents the \”Park-City-Boundary\” problem as a primary issue to position Libreville as a model capital for the 21st Century. Libreville is literally a city in a park: to the east by Akanda National Park, to the north by Mondah National Park and The Cap Esterias, and to the east and south by the waterfront Parks. Six group projects will be asked to select a site from these different geographical perspectives of the city’s edge. The studio is conceived in association with the real-world objectives established by the forward-thinking group behind Gabon’s national parks, the ANPN (Agence Nationale des Parcs nationaux) and their affiliations.

Issues to Engage students will conduct intensive research into one or more of the following issues facing the Libreville-Park boundary and fashion a response in the form of a specific design proposal that is at once visionary and plausible:

·Libreville Sprawl to Park Buffer ZoneLibreville’s expansion is a vital area for design inquiry. When one looks at most African urban population centers, suffering the massive problems of unplanned urban sprawl (Nairobi, Lagos) Gabon has huge potential to inform this kind of growth.
·The Future of Gabon ParksDesigning Gabon’s Park Infrastructure is vital as the country transitions to a tourist based economy.
·Libreville Agroforestry & Botanical InfrastructureThrough Agroforestry, Botanical Gardens, Nurseries and Seed Banks, learning programs can be established to teach sustainable land use to communities.
·Greening the CityReducing energy consumption, temperature management, increased shade and encouraging wood construction.
·Libreville WaterfrontAnticipating projected rises in sea levels and associated displacements across the city.

The investigations are meant to combine large-scale regional impact with moments of specific architectural design. Students will be asked to produce an architectural prototype within a landscape strategy. A landscape/architectural prototype is a single building or landscape but rather a system for building, a flexible model that can be deployed over and over again in a number of places.
Parallel Process: Investigative Site Research & Computational Design Tools
We are putting together landscape architecture and architecture in direct response to the studio problem of The Park-City Boundary so that both disciplines insist their own perspectives and capabilities. The design methodology of the studio also encourages multiple approaches.