Recycled tire launch pad

May 29, 2013. By dk. 0 comment(s).

We started building the launch pad at Berekuso Hill Station out of 2000 recycled tires, inspired by the work of one of our favorite people Teddy Cruz in Tijuana/San Diego (see: manufactured sites). We are using lateritic pea gravel as infill, with watering to settle aggregate (the rains are helping now too!) We are also not making figure-8 tessellation (3D stacking) like Estudio Teddy Cruz did (we tried that on another brekstat site: too labour/time-intensive to join through tire treads, i.e. mechanical connection to retain the figure-8 deformation). Simply cut, turn inside out, fill with gravel, water, stack.

Simple, but not easy. Lessons learned so far:

  • don't use heavy duty reinforced tires (the steel wire gauge is too big for easy cutting)
  • if you have trouble cutting the side wall, offset knife blade by several inches (sometimes reinforcement wraps from outer ring of tread slightly onto face of side wall)
  • use water to assist with cutting (poke a hole in the top of a plastic water bottle) - this introduces friction between the metal knife blade and the rubber molecules, making your slice more effective (thanks to Kay for that!)
  • better to keep lots of blades on hand (sharpen them all before you start, then you don't have to stop to resharpen; a sharp knife can handle 10-20 tires depending on how strong the metal alloy of the blade is)
  • push down on the side wall as you cut (if you lay the tire flat on the ground, this pulls the rubber off the blade as you cut deeper into the side wall)
  • turning the tire inside out feels amazing after you saw off the side walls. cutting ten before you turn them inside out is even better

View point triangulates Nsawam, Aburi and Ashesi University toward Berekuso. Construction for view platform and brekship1 (concept images in AMP post).

Bamboo bot updates

May 29, 2013. By dk. 0 comment(s).

On site in Berekuso yesterday, I forgot to take updated pictures of the bamboo test. So here are some older images I never posted. We have assembled the trusses for a bamboo canopy and are conducting a weather and insect exposure test. So far decent powder post beetle resistance. Will treat and 3D assemble once we finish the launch pad.


The design logic is as follows: Bamboo is at best a temporary building material. However, it is (rel.) cheap, has a low carbon footprint and high performance material properties. The research line seeks to marry standardized bamboo pole sections with simple, durable nut-and-bolt connectors. For this canopy we use 1 in thick Denya plate (top rated African hardwood) with galvanized steel threaded rod. The same connector prototype (4 eyes, 2 angles) used for mobile canopy has other bamboo apps, like a sensorbot and waterbot:

Online reference for making bamboo connections (PDF)

more bamboo experiments on Afrch

Announcing AMP

May 29, 2013. By dk. 0 comment(s).

Amplification is the fundamental process of addition. Life is not either/or; it is both/and.

Ghana Makers is a social network, right now on fb. AMP to date is a makerspace project that lowdo, Yasmine Abbas and my father have been plotting. We used the Rockefeller informal round as an excuse to conceptualize it. Proposal is for a locally-fabricated modular, scalable, coupled digital and physical infrastructure for open-source design and making in Africa+

More and more, people ask for more information or express an interest in collaborative production. And it can be hard to explain to them what we are doing. For most people it's slightly too complicated for them to conceptualize fully.

In August, we want to run a limited startup phase to work with a select number of architects, programmers, artists, systems thinkers and makers in any field to jointly develop a more coherent model for visualizing and communicating the project. More details soon. (Builds off this working theorem on design innovation *stellation*)

images are brekship1 from Brekuso Hill Station, where building off the bamboo robots line we are planning toward kinematic and aeronautic roofing. Yes, that means roof structures that (eventually - this will be years of research) can fly. This is 20 ft container; we are starting with much smaller 10 ft. version

Also: Check out what Wɔɛlab is working on in Togo: W.AFATE to MARS!

Don't know what a "makerspace" is? Read this.


May 18, 2013. By dk. 2 comment(s).

John Cary, the founding editor of, launched the Global Public Interest Design 100 last week and LowDO was honored to be included among such amazing designers and advocates doing such important work world-wide. In March we presented at the Harvard African Development Conference on a panel with Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ and Chelina Odbert of Kounkuey Design Initiative. And next month we'll be presenting at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Capetown, South Africa. 

The program for AIMS, like most conferences, includes networking prominently between events. All this got me thinking about the power of a network and of networking. (Yes, I've done that before.)

I've met John Cary in physical space only once. It was at Systems for Inclusion 7 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (SFI is an annual conference organized by Design Corps in partnership with architecture students.) He had chaired the planning committee for SFI6 the year before, and Ryan Bollom and I were about to organize SFI8 at Harvard GSD. A group of us took over a wing of a conference hotel and discussed design, agency and the future late into the night. Since then, he has gone on to do some pretty rockstar stuff.

At LowDO we've spent the last five years making and building kakraa kakraa (step-by-step) to help realize the change we want to see in the world. That approach derives in part from those late night debates, when we decided that -- unlike architecture's past -- the only way to be radical in the 21st century, is to build.

The HADC conference was a dynamic interdisciplinary event organized by students across all of Harvard's schools. And it was especially encouraging to see that the Graduate School of Design now has an AfricaGSD student group (which organized the architecture and urbanism panels).

But some of the most influential discussion came after the panel...over burritos with Heinrich Wolff.

Picture thanks to Caroline James

Sometimes people characterize networking as meeting people and making contacts. To a degree that is true, and may get the job done for MBA types. But in the world of design, increasingly networking seems to be perhaps more about linking the creative efforts and capacities of different people and groups into projects of co-creation. That means, in part, borrowing the wiki spirit from the web and applying it to the physical world.

And if you're curious, here's the etymology of the word "network":




105W Mary Exterior

March 21, 2013. By Ryan. 1 comment(s).

After a few changes and Hiccups along the way, the gut remodel we designed in South Austin is almost dried in. All the windows and most of the facade has been in stalled (but not painted - it won't be yellow!). Once the carport roof is constructed the roof lines should tie together playfully.

We opened up the drop ceiling on the interior to allow the existing dormers to bring in really nice light to the living space and master bedroom. It helps to make what are small spaces feel much larger.

This is what the house used to look like:

We wanted to keep its traditional austin cottage character but give it a more contemporary feel.