The Teachers Housing for the International School of Tanganyika is a contemporary residential project by Architectural Pioneering Consultants (APC) that incorporates site-specific solutions to adapt to the vibrant tropical surroundings. Located in the rapidly growing coastal city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the 12-unit apartment block serves as a model for sustainable urban architecture in the region.

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Flower garden in front of building with wood louver facade

Often, sustainability efforts in Africa focus on rural regions, despite the rapid expansion of urban areas. This results in unsustainable infrastructure that permeates growing cities. Taking this into consideration, the architects explored ecological solutions to satisfy the needs of the residents.

Related: These bioclimatic student dorms use low-cost, sustainable materials

Apartment block with wood louver facade

The apartment block is seamlessly embedded in the site and oriented to interact with on-site foliage and maximize views of the Indian Ocean. Lush vegetation, including the flourishing fig and tamarind trees, were fully preserved during construction and shade the spaces surrounding the project.

Red apartment entry door surrounded by plants

Successful eco-friendly designs for the tropics require innovative approaches to mitigate climatic factors. For this housing project, varied ceiling heights create air volumes within the interior spaces, and the façade is redefined to encase the building in a spatial membrane. Both design strategies help regulate thermal comfort by eliminating heat through reduced air temperatures, maximized airflow and dehumidified spaces, all without sacrificing aesthetics.

Open plan living and dining room with bookshelves to the left

Locally sourced materials are meticulously selected to enhance the design and create comfortable spaces. The free-standing concrete structure and elegant teakwood brise soleil allow the project to float above the ground wrapped in an intricate, patterned skin. Lightweight material choices for walls, including in-situ built structural insulated panels (SIPs) and prefabricated magnesium-oxide fiberboard, prevent heat gain by minimizing thermal mass.

Balcony view towards Dar es Salaam cityscape

Besides catering to the thermal characteristics of the equatorial site, the design team incorporated water management systems to optimize abundant resources. Catchment systems harvest stormwater during the rainy season, while greywater is treated using a biogas digester plant to make it potable.

Side view of apartment block covered in wood slats shaded by trees

By integrating various site-specific strategies with sophisticated architectural details, the architects create a distinct East African tropical modernist aesthetic that bridges local craftsmanship with international contemporary design.

+ APC Architectural Pioneering Consultants

Images courtesy of Markus Lanz/PK Odessa and APC