Javier Callejas, Urko Sanchez Architects

FREE TO AIR: The SOS Childrens Village in Djibouti by Urko Sanchez Architects

In Tadjourah, Djibouti, sits the award winning SOS Children’s Village design by Urko Sanchez architects. The Spanish team of architects  were tasked by SOS International to design a children’s village complex that is made up of 15 individual homes, which are able to respond to Djibouti’s intense climate (one of the hottest on earth) as well as the local community traditions.

A burgeoning commercial hub, Djibouti is a multi-ethnic nation located in the Horn of Africa. With a population of over 810,000 inhabitants, speaking predominantly Arabic and French, the country is strategically located near the world’s busiest shipping lanes, bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. But, with all its promise, Djibouti still suffers from persistent droughts and continuous water scarcity. This more than anything else, informed the premise for the Village’s design.


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The design team sought to understand housing in similar cultural and climatic environments, and as such based their design on the following.

Firstly, the development needed to focus on the children, providing a safe environment to live and play. Thus, pedestrian-only streets became the basis for the layout including playing fields and playgrounds for children and teenagers, as well as a number of open squares and courts that also foster recreation.

Secondly, they needed to ensure thermal comfort. Narrow streets between the houses that would allow them shade one another, providing natural ventilation and corridors of wind flow, along with Wind Catcher Towers would help stave off the intense heat. This, plus plenty of open spaces would ensure a comfortable and habitable village complex.

Lastly, Security and Self sufficiency.  
The houses in this village are closed to the outside; looking inwards to protect residents from the elements and intrusion, while providing privacy and organic surveillance. The team also integrated natural vegetation into the development, encouraging inhabitants to take care of their own plants and trees.

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