Friday, March 15, 2013

Building a Bigger Vision

Hot and Muggy.  The climate on the west coast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) did not slow the pace of our work.  Thoughts for a reworked master plan came quick as we had twice-a-day meetings with senior school administrators while our intrepid survey crew toiled in the heat, their only consolation being a beautiful view down toward the historical city of Boma and its surrounding hilly landscape, stretching out below the series of ridges on which our project location was perched.
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Looking west toward Boma below and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Phase 1.  In 2008 eMi sent a team to FACTEB Bible Seminary to re-master plan and extend the life of an aging campus, anticipating a future pastoral training population of 300 students.  Along with the new master plan the team designed a new Library/Classroom building and a quadplex for married students with families.  This standardized design was intended to be used several times to eventually replace several aging and poorly service residences.
Almost complete quadplex designed by eMi in 2008.
Phase 2.  In February 2013 our second team now visited the same campus for Phase 2, knowing that the campus had been renamed University of the Alliance in Congo (UAC), to recognize two new programs; business management and IT management/technical services).  With this new, broadened vision for the university the anticipated campus population on any given day almost tripled in size.  As we listened to the expanded vision of the school, it was a great encouragement to learn that in its first year implementing pilot courses, the new classes have already become very popular and well attended.
Meeting with senior campus administrators.
Progress.  The ground floor of the new Library is operational with classrooms at this time and the first quadplex is nearly complete.  When eMi was invited back to design Phase 2 the priority was to tweak the master plan for more classrooms, provide direction for the renovation of a large, decrepit Meeting Hall building and revisit power and sanitation requirements throughout the campus.
Lower portion of new library designed by eMi in 2008.  Upper level are classrooms.
Family Hospitality.  Not only was the school administration excited to receive the eMi team but we were given a formal greeting by the student body who sang and danced their welcome to us.  What an honour and how truly humbling it was!  Each day as we walked the campus we were greeted with big smiles and accepted as a part of the campus family.  So when our work of surveying, investigations and meetings was complete, we left a community that had embraced us and welcomed our partnership.
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We are formally greeted by students and faculty with song and dance.
Sensitivity.  Many of the students who will train at the University of the Alliance in Congo will never travel to Canada or the United States.  Most will never step foot on a university campus here and while we do not wish to impose our opinions, aesthetic or cultural baggage on UAC, we will pray that what we do bring as a design resource will transfer the best of what we have learned to their learning environment so UAC will become a thriving place of learning, discovery and discipleship.
Final presentation of our remaster plan and building designs.
Final Presentation.  The presentation was not a typical one (what's really "typical" at eMi?).  The "presentation" was gathering around a supper table with the former Rector Dr. Kenzo and his wife Lau and two senior administrators.  We shared our vision for the central academic core, a reinvigorated Meeting Hall, proposed how there could be enough classrooms to meet the teaching load and various approaches to increasing faculty and guest housing.
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Remaster planned academic core of the campus.
Next Steps.  The next phase of construction will see the renovation of the Meeting Hall, repurposing of the existing Library building to be classrooms with a second level and flanking faculty office wings.  As before we have promised to return to Boma as needed in a few years to review their progress and once again sit down with them to envision the next steps for the campus.
Draft mp
To be renovated Meeting Hall (right) with new Cafeteria/Student Centre (left)
Project Photos.  A new set of annotated photos has been placed in my Photo Gallery with various options to view it.  If you want to browse the set, click here.  If you wish to see a slideshow of the photos, click here.  If you want to see the titles and read the captions of each photo, click here.
Thank you to all who have contributed to this work through your financial support, encouragement and prayer; you have been a part of making this project, and the resulting touched lives, a reality.

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