FabCab Architect in Africa

(photo courtesy of Chelsea Gorkiewicz)
Written by Chelsea Gorkiewicz, FabCab Architect

For the first two weeks of April, Chelsea will be in the Moshaweng Valley area of the Kalahari Desert in northwest South Africa. She will be lending her design expertise to the planning and design of a new school and community building called the Skills Development Center.

Chelsea will be part of the Kalahari Experience, which is a service project initiated by Frankfurt International School (FIS). Since 1991 teams of high school students and teachers have been working with the Tswana people in the Moshaweng Valley in South Africa, which is an isolated area in the Kalahari Desert. Most of the 10 villages in the Moshaweng Valley are accessible only by unpaved road. Many of the people in this area are not original residents, but were “displaced” during apartheid. They were sent to this semi-desert area that is now home to approximately 30,000 people. It is one of the poorest areas in South Africa.

The Kalahari Experience brings together teachers and high school students from collaborating schools worldwide to participate in bringing specialized, targeted instruction in English to the underserved community schools in the Moshaweng Valley. At the same time, participating students gain understanding and empathy of cultural diversity, historical and political influences, and challenges faced by residents and students in these communities in South Africa.

Through her husband who teaches at FIS, Chelsea has gotten involved in the development of a new Skills Development Center sponsored by FIS. The new Skills Development Center will be located in Padstow, a small township that has been voted poorest town in South Africa for the last four years. There’s a basic preschool and primary school building in the village, but there is no middle or high school. The community needs a new school and community building to support secondary education, adult learning and job skills development.

Chelsea will be gathering information in the community and at the building site, meeting with community leaders and materials suppliers, and preparing a schematic design for the new Skills Development Center. She hopes to implement sustainable design features throughout the project, including: rainwater collection systems and vegetable gardens, composting toilets, a kinetic playground to help pump well water, and building materials sourced within South Africa that can be assembled using local unskilled labor, bringing much needed jobs to the community.

Check back at the end of April for photos from her trip to South Africa and more information about these projects!


New SFO Terminal (T2) = Good Design

(photo courtesy of SFO)
Written by Maura Parente, FabCab Marketing and Design

After recently flying out of San Francisco Airport’s new domestic terminal, the first LEED Gold certified terminal in the country, I acknowledged an unusual movement my mouth seemed to be making, considering I was at an airport…I was smiling.

SFO is notorious for long security lines and it was a pleasant surprise to arrive at the newly opened Terminal 2, or T2, and not be daunted by a sea of travelers. T2 was designed to efficiently and comfortably move people and only houses two airlines – Virgin America and American Airlines.

After passing through security, I was ushered into a space that incited the smile. I had happened upon giant jellyfish-esque pieces of string art swaying from the ceiling. They were whimsical and embodied the adventurous attitude of San Francisco. Other than the colorful jellyfish, the terminal is white and has a new-agey feel. Long clerestory windows pulled in natural light, flooding the space and my smile continued even when I passed the bathrooms. Universal Design can apply to elements other than spaces and when I saw the signage for the bathrooms, I liked what I saw – large, clear, directional signage that was FUN and attractive.

The terminal’s principal architect, Arthur Gensler got many things right and succeeded in fusing clean inspirational architecture and funky art from local to international artists. After looking into the project more, I came across the project design brief, which was equally as impressive. The brief was a collaborative effort by SFO/Turner/Gensler and discussed innovative concepts such as:

  • Creating an emphasis on service, hospitality and comfort
  • “De-stressing travel in a pat-down world”
  • Providing world-renowned local food
  • Completing a multi-modal hub connected to public transportation
  • Removing complexity by designing spaces to be intuitive and naturally lit

A variety of seating and lounge areas are innate to the architecture and Silicon Valley’s influence is apparent in the computer cafe areas and standing bars. I also ran into countless eco-conscious practices (such as refillable water bottle stations and compost areas) and relished the atmosphere that encapsulated San Francisco’s diverse charm.

Not surprisingly, I’m looking forward to my next trip to T2.