CULTCHOVA . books on wheels

Access to school material in the provinces of Mozambique is an issue that has a direct impact on the quality of teaching and the preparation of the students of every age. Books are too few and too expensive and they hardly get to the smallest schools. Portuguese ngo AIDGLOBAL decided to take action on this matter collecting as many books as possible and make them move in between schools, creating a network where every school of the district can have access to this material whenever necessary. The biggest issue was of course finding a way to transport the books and display them in the school for as long as it is needed. Here’s where they decided to involve KUVA in the project asking to develop a system to make this actions possible. The production of course had to be done locally, which means a restricted choice of materials and very low-tech solutions, practically something hand-made.

The inspiration came from the TCHOVA (from the Changana verb ku-tchova which means to push) a basic trolley used for almost everything, from selling fruit on the street to collecting used metal.

Many improvement where  of course needed, like a closed compartment to protect books from weather conditions during transportation and a way for the very same compartment to become a bookshelf  when the CULTCHOVA is displayed in a school. Safety was also an issue in the sense of locking the material up to protect it from being stolen, but also in the sense of considering that in its bookshelf configuration it is mainly used by children, which means good stability and no sharp metal edges on a child height.

Dimensions where also important because the trolley has to pass trough a normal door, but it has to contain about 70 books + 10 working tablets (portable desks for those schools with no real desks) + some maps + standard material like colour pencils and similar stuff. Therefore the idea of a U shape opened on the three sides with the wheels on the inside.

The wood is Umbila, a very good local wood chosen for being quite light for the high strength it offers and for his excellent resistance to the different weather conditions. All the metal parts are done with re-used tubes easy to find and the wheels are of old bicycles. The outside sheet is aluminum to keep the weight as low as possible.

We already contacted a local carpenter from Machava and are currently waiting for the first prototype to be done. After that is just try it out and see what can be improved before starting with the production of the other units.

I hope you will soon see an update with the first pictures.


unexpected architecture #1

Igreja de Santo Antonio da Polana . Maputo . 1962


Just a few minutes from home, in the Polana area, between pointless low buildings partly reconverted for diplomatic uses, public spaces forgotten by the public and what’s left of large avenues, is a concrete strange object. The object happens to be a church built in 1962 and if you ask around about the name of the architect nobody really can tell. What hits you is the simplicity of the shape, which looks more like a folded piece of paper than a concrete building. Despite the fragmentation of the surfaces, the movement is one and it runs either from top to base or the other way around, bringing to the believers the same old message but adding one direction. Inside and outside follow exactly the same rules, creating what seams to be a pure geometrical exercise. But once you’re done with all this geometry and you start feeling the space, then you realize that it’s really not just an exercise.

I don’t know how many of you will have a chance to visit it, but if you happen to be in Maputo it really deserves a few minutes of your time…and it’s absolutely reachable by foot.