Despite this work, the Ju'/hoansi San cobbers’ need a new facility. Since their last workplace burned to the ground in 2017, the shoemakers have been working in the shade of trees, storing leather and finished products in a temporary shelter built of scrap material and wood.
In the meantime, through a collaboration between the community, FFF and Belgian architect Bruno Spaas, an outline for an ideal new workspace has been developed. It includes a small, dark storage space, a bigger working space and a shaded area for working outside, as the local cobblers prefer to do.
But a lack of funding halted construction.
Halfway through 2020 sandal production paused due to the pandemic. This was the perfect time to build the proposed construction.
While investigating how to ensure the building would be as environmentally friendly as possible, the community opted for earth-bag architecture: a technique that uses local soils to build fast, strong structures that we believed was achievable with the resources available in the environment.
In combination with the Kalahari sands, the clay-rich soil in the local omuramba (dry riverbed) would make a durable mix with which to fill polypropylene bags as building blocks for strong, thermal mass walls.