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Projects >  Zambia >  University Village

Architecture In Developing Countries

University Village



In 1975, we were commissioned by the University of Zambia to design accommodation for post-graduate students, visiting lecturers and other guests on a site close to the Great East Road on the outskirts of Lusaka.

The site was on a hill which was well covered with mature trees and that sloped down to a stream to the north and to the north-east with an old farm house at the top of the site.

The architect’s brief asked for a parking area which was located at the top of the site behind the communal facilities which were to consist of a restaurant, a conference centre and a staff social centre.  Separate accommodation units were to be constructed for: visiting guests and academics (2 units); junior university staff on the Staff Development Programme (6 units) and post-graduate students (2 units) and the accommodation was to be constructed in stages (see site layout). 

Village Design

All of the accommodation was designed as self-contained units arranged around central courtyards with a lockable access door for security purposes.  Using the slope of the site, each unit was to consist of two buildings: a single-storey building on the higher side of the courtyard and a two-storey building on the lower side so that each unit stepped down the slope (see sections).

All of the accommodation was single-banked to provide the maximum cross-ventilation to all rooms and the roof spaces were also ventilated.  Single-storey units and the first floors to two-storey units had very large roof overhangs to provide protection from the sun and the cantilevered first floors to the two-storey units provided large overhangs to the ground floors again to provide protection from the sun (see sections).

The Guest Units had twenty two-person rooms and ten one-person rooms and each room had a private bathroom.

The Postgraduate Units had twenty six study-bedrooms, each bedroom having a wash-basin.  The rooms had communal toilets, showers and bathrooms and there was also a common room and kitchen for the use of the students.

The Staff Development Programme Units fifteen self-contained units each with a bedroom, a sitting room, a bathroom and a small kitchen.  It was envisaged that some of the junior staff might be married.

Construction was of brick cross-walls with concrete floor slabs and steel lattice purlins supporting the fibre-cement roof sheets.  The lattice purlins were a development of the purlins used on the secondary schools (see previous post).  They were constructed of 12mm reinforcing rods welded together to form a hollow pyramid shape (see sketch) where the top rod supported the roof sheets (which were fixed with hook bolts) and the bottom two rods supported the timber ceiling framing.  This proved to be an even more economic form of roof construction than the pressed metal purlins used for the schools and was used in several further projects including the University of Zambia Commonwealth Centre. 

All walls were rendered with self-coloured render to reduce the need for maintenance and the tops of all end walls were finished with pre-cast concrete units which stepped down the walls following the slope of the roof. Flashings were built in under the concrete units and over the ends of the roof sheets.  This was something that we had been experimenting with on other university buildings.


Eventually, because of funding problems, only the first stage of the development which consisted of four accommodation units was built and the existing farmhouse was renovated to provide communal dining and living accommodation.

The accommodation was generally well received by the university students and other occupants as all rooms were protected from the sun by the large roof overhangs and cantilevered floor slabs and had good ventilation.  The ventilated roof spaces also helped to keep the rooms cool.

The technique of raising the end walls and running the roof sheets up against them with flashings protecting the junction between the roof sheets and the walls is not a detail that I would use again as the roof/wall flashings are bound to either fail or at least require maintenance at some point.  It is however a technique commonly used in some countries but it does in my experience lead to roof failures.  Since this project, I have always designed low-cost buildings with roofs that over-sail the end walls doing away with the need for flashings and providing some protection to the end walls.  

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