• Tuesday , 19 November 2019

Architecture at the Nexus of Water + Power: Prof David Turnbull


Date: Wednesday 7 March, 5.00pm Reception, Talk 5.30pm- 7.00pm

Venue: Entrance is via side door of the Ormeau Baths Innovation Centre, 18 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast

Tickets: Free. Register via Eventbrite

A public lecture: Professor David Turnbull discusses his work in Africa with Jane Harrison, as ATOPIA Research & ATOPIA Innovation, and PITCHAfrica. Architects Turnbull and Harrison explore the integration of power and water services within autonomous or semi-autonomous buildings, in communities with limited resources, and in tandem with the provision of schools, clinics and structures that support business development programs and shared space, challenging existing sustainable approaches and socio-political norms.

Professor Turnbull will present two completed rainwater harvesting (WATERBANK) schools, both in Laikipia in the Central Highlands of Kenya*, along with work in progress in Ghana and Malawi.

The problem.

On the African continent +/- 400 million people do not have access to clean water. Borehole wells, the typical response to water access challenges, dry up or break, and the groundwater can be toxic or heavily fluoridated. But, thirteen times the amount of water required for the Sub-Saharan region falls as rain.

The premise.

Given the impact of Climate Change on weather patterns, rainfall and other forms of precipitation, might it be both necessary and desirable that building types are developed that can harvest and store as much water as possible, providing enough capacity that the increasingly erratic time divisions between the rains can be ameliorated?

Capturing and storing rain requires architecture: surface, structure and volume; other approaches need engineering disciplines, even geography & geology, but not architecture…

The questions.

Could this model provide an incentive for the widespread provision of locally based, dispersed and decentralised infrastructures for water supply? And could this model, which demands a level of community based stewardship that piped, linear, centralised systems do not require, provide the circumstances for invention in relation to the political processes that govern water-use generally, and ultimately survival?

The same approach to infrastructure design can be used for solar power, where harvesting surface and storage capacity are equally critical issues. How can the two systems be better integrated within a holistic architectural and urban/rural design framework, adaptable to location, community, and environmental needs?

*In Kenya, the Uasonyiro Primary School was named ˜The Greenest School on Earth for 2012-13, and the Endana Secondary School was selected as a Design of the Year by Design Museum, London in 2015. WATERBANKS as an initiative has been selected by SUSTANIA in Denmark as one of the top 100 sustainable solutions for the planet.


David Turnbull is a Director of ATOPIA Innovation, and Design Director of ATOPIA Research Inc and PITCHAfrica, an award winning 501(c)3 tax exempt organization registered in New Jersey, USA, with a specific focus on the development and construction of building types that address global ecological and social challenges.

Turnbull is also a Professor of Architecture with more than 25 years of experience in Design Education Internationally. His academic career started in 1989 at The Architectural Association in London while he was working in the office of James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates, leading major projects in Spain, Japan and Singapore. His academic appointments since 1990 include the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professorship in Architecture at Yale University, and Visiting Professorships at the University of Toronto, Canada (sponsored by CITY-TV), Columbia University’s GSAPP in New York, & Cornell University. He was Professor of Architecture at the University of Bath in the UK from 2000-2005 and from 2012 -13, Visiting Professor of Design & Innovation at The African University of Science & Technology, a Nelson Mandela Institution, in Abuja, Nigeria. He was a Professor of Architecture at The Cooper Union in New York from 2007 – 2017.

Tickets are free: Registration is required via Eventbrite; Entry also possible by registration at the door on the night.


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