• Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi NewsThe 32° East Arts Center in Kampala has completed its first phase, marking a significant milestone for the development of Kampala’s art community.

The purpose-built community arts space, designed by London-based architecture practice New Makers Bureau in collaboration with Kampala-based firm Localworks, aims to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for local artists and visitors alike.

The centre serves as the new home for 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting East African artists and contemporary art.

The 32° East Arts Center in Kampala.
The 32° East Arts Center in Kampala. Image source: DesignBoom/Timothy Latim
The architects employed rammed earth and earth bricks made from the rich, red-coloured soil extracted directly from the site.Image source: DesignBoom/Timothy Latim
Image source: DesignBoom/Timothy Latim

Phase one of the project, which has been in progress for seven years, includes four artist studios, a specialised art library—the only one of its kind in Uganda—restrooms, and a flexible café that will temporarily function as a gallery and workspace until phase two’s completion by the end of 2024.

Phase two will add a gallery with a mezzanine, four artist guest rooms, two artist studios, offices, kiosks, and a walled courtyard garden.

Designing an Inclusive Artist Space

The 32° East Arts Center is designed to be flexible and fully accessible, situated on a slope in Kabalagala, a central district of Kampala.

The architects strategically arranged the centre around a shaded, step-free courtyard to create visual connections between the various spaces and provide amenities for social gatherings and the creation and display of larger artworks.

The centre offers various programs for artists, including three-month residencies, studio rentals, and opportunities to exhibit their works in the gallery.

The project aims to be a dynamic space that engages diverse audiences and encourages interaction with artists and the regional art scene.

Furthermore, the project envisions a self-sustaining village or campus of symbiotic uses, ensuring the financial stability of 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust through income-generating spaces designed in phase two, such as the operational café, kiosks, and rented studios.

A Sustainable Building Model

The 32° East Arts Center represents a departure from the nonprofit’s former home, a cluster of shipping containers.

The new building, a single-story structure with a low-carbon footprint, embraces a hyper-local approach, utilising materials readily available on-site and adhering to the principles of the circular economy.

In the construction process, two existing buildings were demolished, and the remaining materials were repurposed as fill and aggregate for the art hub’s structure.

The architects employed rammed earth and earth bricks made from the rich, red-coloured soil extracted directly from the site.

Image source: Uganda Arts Trust

Additionally, the design draws inspiration from Kampala’s built environment, incorporating locally sourced materials such as concrete lintels cast against corrugated metal and solid local sandstone for the foundations.

The roof shingles are composed of local eucalyptus timber.

A Climate-Focused and Energy-Efficient Design

Given Kampala’s location on the equator, mitigating solar gain and creating shaded and cool spaces were paramount considerations.

To address this, the 32° East Arts Center incorporates design strategies that temper the intensity of the sun. Slim polycarbonate roof lights allow for natural daylighting, shutters are prioritised over glazed windows, and a sweeping roof provides shade to the courtyard.

The facade features a bespoke textured open brick pattern known as “hit and miss,” which creates a play of dappled light.

The project team adopted passive techniques for ventilation and cooling, eliminating the need for mechanical systems and reducing running and maintenance costs.

The building’s elevations feature distinct strata that reference the site’s steep topography, with a solid local sandstone base, rammed earth walls, and textured brick mediating between the walls and roof.

The expressive roof forms hover above the structure, offering shade and protection from heavy rain. Horizontal tile details on the rammed earth walls further enhance their durability.

The roof’s pitch creates a clear entrance to the building and adds a dynamic element with a gentle curve in the roof trusses and a captivating ceiling in the main space.

A Welcoming Space for Art and Community

The 32° East Arts Center is conveniently near a large local green space and residential areas, accessible both by vehicle and on foot.

The design incorporates built-in seating along the courtyard perimeter, encouraging impromptu social interactions and moments of pause.

Strategically positioned window seats provide views of the nearby green space, enhancing the connection between the indoor and outdoor environments.

The first phase of the project received funding from various sources, including the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, The African Arts Trust, Arts Collaboratory, and generous contributions from individuals.

Roofings Group provided materials, and New Makers Bureau worked on a pro-bono basis, contributing to the successful completion of the initial phase.

The 32° East Arts Center stands as a testament to sustainable design, community engagement, and the potential for art to transform spaces.

With phase one completed, the centre is poised to become a vibrant hub for artists in Kampala, nurturing creativity, fostering connections, and showcasing the rich artistic talent of East Africa.


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