//* {Incremental Shift} ::
{2008.01.24 ~ Competition, Architecture for Humanity}

Project Team ::
Luke Perry
Nicolette Mastrangelo
Matt Bitterman

*Honerable Mention Winner*

INCREMENTAL SHIFT is a proposal for a new tele-medical center in Sanfe Bagar, Nepal that addresses the present and future state of the digital divide by presenting a framework for gradual change.

As digital technology is introduced to Nepal, improved access to health care through internet technologies has the potential to transform the lives of many people in the rural community. The proposal recognizes that this revolution will not happen overnight; the advance of technologies will build on and enhance the knowledge of local people and place facilitating a change that will happen slowly and lightly. It encourages equity through a flexible, growth-oriented, distributed and local network of Wi-Fi access and international medical knowledge exchange.

This “building as infrastructure” approach suggests new datums of thought, methods of construction, and use of materials to negotiate between the known (existing Nepali traditions and customs) and the unknown (new digital technologies and educational opportunities). Incremental Shift is the first physical phase of the tele-medical center, acknowledging the future by planning for its role as facilitator and hub of digital technologies in northwest Nepal.

Incremental Shift is a double bar, inflected scheme alluding to the biased duality of the digital divide. The north-facing public “high-tech” bar contains the computer facilities, learning labs, and meeting rooms – spaces for long-distance and local knowledge exchange. The south-facing private “low-tech” bar consists of staff quarters and living spaces – spaces to house the local labor and flavor that maintain, operate and facilitate the center. The public and private bars converge at the center’s nexus, the community multi-functioning meeting space and adjacent, wedged, common, sheltered courtyard. Here the division of the bars is dissolved. Interaction between bars is unavoidable and encouraged, as is the interaction between rural Nepal and an equitable global digital network.

Programmatically, the center anticipates growth over time and future needs of the digital communication age by the incorporation of flexible spaces. In the private bar, staff quarters include six individual sleeping rooms, but up to twelve sleeping spaces depending on the number of beds allotted for a flux in the number of workers employed.

The staff kitchen and living area becomes public or communal based on an opening or rotating of the immediate operable partitions. In the public bar, the largest space – a meeting room that accommodates up to 100 people – spills out onto the main courtyard space via sliding partitions. The space can be closed up for digital projections and opened for larger social events. The main computer lab includes interchangeable nooks for computers and books (accommodates a small library). This learning lab facilitates supervised instruction (computers around the perimeter of the room) and a central collaborative workspace. A separate administration space doubles as an auxiliary computer lab.

The two bars of the building work in harmony to compliment the low-tech, site-responsive passive heating and cooling strategies of the center. Bars open to the courtyard in warm weather to exhaust and cross-ventilate the spaces. They close in colder climate to take advantage of the insulating value of the corrugated partitions, thermal mass temperature regulation of the earth walls, heat from machines and equipment, and an as-needed centrally located wood-burning stove.

The tele-medical center exists as an extension of the local Nepali landscape. The inflected scheme follows the geometry of the terraced site and uses local, commonly used materials in new ways. Building materials include site-based earthen walls, mud-brick interior partitions, local recycled timber framing, and corrugated metal. The formwork used to construct the primary earthen walls becomes a panelized and operable secondary building enclosure system, regulating light, view, and ventilation. A similar system of using local materials and labor in new ways can be applied to other locations and other potential tele-medical centers or Wi-Fi hubs in Nepal and abroad. This incremental shift in building, technology, and ultimately life will allow the introduction of the new digital age to proceed in respectful, but necessary manner.