Prehanta Vandeyar of Architecture for Humanity (AFH) is part of the team responsible for the construction of the Football for Hope Center (FFHC) in Edendale, handling the architectural division of the imposing project and oversees the initial construction. She spoke to WhizzKids United (WKU) about her overall impression of FIFA’s brainchild, the FFHC, and the impact it will have for the community of Edendale.
WKU: Can you tell us about the Football for Hope Centre and how did it come about?
Preshanta Vandeyar: The Football for Hope Centre (FFHC) in Edendale is part of 20 centres in Africa, which is part of an initiative called "The Football for Hope Movement". The "Movement" was set up by FIFA in alliance with Streetfootballworld in 2005 and aims at addressing social challenges. The Football for Hope Centre initiative is part of this movement and aims at creating 20 Centres for 2010, forming part of the World Cup campaign. The initiative provides support to charities throughout Africa that use football as a tool to overcome social challenges. The key issues addressed by the movement are children"s rights and education, healthcare, social development and anti-discrimination etc. South Africa has been lucky enough to have four of these 20 centres.
WKU: when did the construction of the FFHC in Edendale begin?
PV: The construction started on the 27th of May, however the Football for Hope initiative started in 2009. FIFA and Streetfootballworld used the services of Architecture for Humanity (AFH), which is a non-profit design firm to initiate and deliver these centres. Quite a few of the centres have had very long development periods because of legislation, regulations or funding.
WKU: How will the FFHC benefit the community of Edendale?
PV: What has been remarkable about my journey on this project is that before starting this project I had little knowledge about WKU. Over my short period on his project, I have come to know the Health Academy, the staff and work it does in Edendale. It is easy to see how much of a positive impact WKU has on the children at Edendale. WKU aims at bettering children’s lives by providing better health care, education and by teaching life skills through football. It is clear that these skills and the support that WKU offers Edendale"s children will feed through back into the actual township and will undoubtedly have a long lasting and sustainable effect.
WKU: What phase of construction have you reached so far?
PV: It is difficult to put an actual percentage or phase to where we are with the construction because the scheme is made up of two major parts. One of which is the main building, the other is the football pitch. Because the site is quite constrained in terms of its size these two aspects of the project require quite a bit of attention in various different ways. The building is doing a lot better, because it is the simpler of the two. The building is probably 60% complete whilst he pitch is still in the inception phase.
WKU: What is your attitude to sustainable green development? And design and how does this apply to this project?
PV: I think it is very important to take in the environment when one is designing. It is incredibly difficult for an architect in today’s world to ignore the environment. Green and sustainable design has been something very close to my heart, during my university studies as well as in my professional practice. It is one of the things that Architecture for Humanity promotes. Our mission and our motive are to use sustainable design to create a better future. AFH consciously look to including sustainable and passive design in all its projects. Using passive design is an easy and inexpensive way of developing a building that uses less energy without the need for expensive renewables or a large cost output. All that is required is for the designer to design or locate the building in a way that allows for natural ventilation, sun gain, thermal massing etc. A lot of these aspects have been taken into account in the design of this FFHC. The building’s position is very important; its orientated towards the north, which means that it gains north warm light, it also has a large roof-overhang which provides sun protection in the hot summer months, and there are a lot of windows strategically placed for natural ventilation. All of these elements seem obvious, but they help to decrease the running costs of the building which ultimately makes for a more environmentally friendly building, which uses less artificial lights and artificial heating whilst maintaining a comfortable habitable space.
WKU: What is FIFA’s main objective for the FFHC?
PV: As previously explained, this centre is part of the Football for Hope movement and it was very much driven by FIFA and Streetfootballworld. The entire movement is all about trying to use football as an international language, which is something that everybody understands, irrespective of race, background, or culture. It is an amazing tool to use to overcome challenges that a lot of developing countries still face, for example - discrimination. People obviously discriminate for various reasons, but you take a football and introduce it to a crowd of people and without any further encouragement people will automatically want to play football. It is a way of overcoming a lot of barriers in society that we put up and don’t always realize are there. Football is a lot more than just a game; it is a way of interacting, a way of overcoming some of the problems that we face today as a society. With the Football for Hope Centre initiative, FIFA are supporting charities that do exactly that, they use football as a tool to overcome challenges that developing countries continue to face.
WKU: What do you personally look forward to every morning when you come to the construction site?
PV: I look forward or should I say I hope to find a massive change on site in terms of the construction development. As an architect you try to motivate the contractor to construct quickly and accurately. Sometimes a lot more encouragement is required, especially when development is particularly slow. I love coming to the WKU site because I love seeing the staff and children at the Academy. Mostly, I would say I look forward to learning a bit more about what WKU does and I find great satisfaction in knowing that the project I am working on will make a difference.
WKU: How many hours a day do you spend on the construction site?
PV: This is a unique project. In most cases, an architect would only visit a site every fortnight, because it is generally the contractor’s responsibility to progress his/her development. But because of the nature of this project I am required on site a lot more to help and assist the contractor in advancing the works. On average I am on site for about 4 to 5 hours per day.
WKU: What has been your best highlight so far since the beginning of the construction?
PV: I think my biggest highlight so far, has been getting to know everyone at WhizzKids United, getting to know all the staff and what they do. It’s like a hidden gem, once you discover them you are just absolutely amazed by the work they do.
WKU: What can we expect from the facilities when the centre is completed?
PV: The building is made up of two main parts. One is a large multi-purpose space which can be used for a mixture of activities that I know the Academy requires for example a training centre, a library, or a canteen area. The second part of it is facilitating this space. There is a kitchen that works hand in hand with the multi-purpose space, there are ablutions/change rooms that will serve the pitch and anyone using the facility and there’s an office space for the staff at the WKU Academy. The office space overlooks the pitch and the multi-purpose space which aims to continuously remind the staff of the reasons behind what they do and why they there. Then of course we have the 5 aside football pitch, which is one of the main aspects of the project. We also have a few more counselling rooms, which will be located in specially fitted container units. We would like and are working on creating an outdoor eating space where staff can gather.
WKU: How did you prepare yourself for this project?
PV: In answering this question I would have to explain a bit about my professional journey/background. I grew up in Johannesburg, I studied architecture at Wits University and after completing this I moved to England and worked in England for a fairly long time. In my final year at University I did a project in which I researched empowering impoverished people using sustainable architecture. It is something that has been with me throughout my career and having gone to London, I felt the need to give back to society which is one of the reasons I moved back to South Africa. I moved back to Cape Town in January 2013 and worked for very high profile firm for four months. This opportunity came up with Architecture for Humanity, a very well-known international design firm that uses professionals like me to contribute and give back to areas that can’t afford construction, design or development services. I believed it to be a good opportunity- to embark on a journey that I always wanted to take: to use my skills to help those that are less fortunate. I had very little time between applying for the job, receiving the post and relocating from CT to PMB. Given, that I"ve always had a long urge and need to do this kind of work, to get involved in communities and give back, it feels like I have been preparing for a lot longer than just the few months I had, before I arrived in KZN.
WKU: What important lessons have you learnt from this project?
PV: I have learnt numerous lessons. I think the main one is how to be patient. Most of my experience has been in Europe, which can mean that things get constructed much quicker. In Europe there is a wealth of experience and knowledge that is easy to tap into, whereas in underdeveloped communities there is less of that and so your knowledge is a lot more essential. It has been amazing in terms of teaching me how to be patient, but I have also come to understand how much knowledge I could pass on. Being on site a lot more is something that most architects don’t ever get to do in their lives, most of their work is office based. I’ve had an amazing opportunity to come to site almost every day: see what the site labourers do on a daily basis, and actually understand what the management of construction entails. The contractors have needed quite a lot of my support hence my increased involvement in assisting the contractors has helped me understand construction and construction management a lot more than I would have otherwise.
WKU: What will you miss about this site after you are done with the construction?
PV: I think I will miss the people! As a South African I could have never imagined that South Africans could be so different - From Cape Town to Johannesburg, to Pietermaritzburg, to Edendale; there are unique traits about each population. People in Edendale and Pietermaritzburg are amazingly warm, friendly & kind. They welcome you with open arms, they want to learn about your life and where you come from. They are happy to help and assist you whenever and wherever they can. This will be something I will miss hugely.
WKU: When can we expect the completion date of the FFHC?
PV: It is very tricky to put down an actual date for the completion, because we had quite a bit of obstacles in the course of this construction, a lot of unforeseen circumstance has held us back. The contractor and I would love to finish by the initially agreed date, which is the 27th of November. The chances are very slim, because the progress is very slow. I would say for the project to be completely finished, it will take another two to three months - we are looking at best case the end of January.
WKU: Thank you very much for the interview, Preshanta.