The Parapolis ProjectSustainability on Wheels
A joint project between students of German and Senegalese universities of architecture, designing the Abracadabra Food Truck together
What is the Parapolis Project?
If you’ve been following the story of Abracadabra from the beginning, you know that our dream has always been to serve up meals, culture, and fun from a food truck. We love the idea of appearing all over Dakar — or Senegal! — and creating excitement, connection, and community around our moving restaurant.
That dream is alive and well. For the Parapolis Project, a group of architecture students from the University of Applied Sciences in Münster, Germany, is working together with students from the Institute Polytechnique Panafricain (IPP), Dakar, to develop a design concept.
The challenge: design an earth-friendly food truck that allows Abracadabra to serve as a community source of social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Through the Parapolis Project, I learned that architecture is not just about design and building – but it is about people and understanding their needs.—Student
Phase I: April 2017
Workshop, 23-24 April 2017
The aim of the initial two-day workshop in Dakar was first and foremost to foster students working together and creating a space for exciting new insights for students from Münster and IPP. The cross-cultural exchange of ideas and opinions (and mp3s!) began right away.
“From the first moment, it was incredible that there was no language barrier with the German students. We did not know how it would work, some of us were nervous for this – but it just worked.” — IPP student
“I was impressed by the output the students generated within such little time.” — Münster professor
Students spent two days working in mixed groups to study Dakar’s market structures, and explore topics around food trucks as pop-up markets and pop-up architecture, sustainable design and architecture, and Senegalese culture.
“I am now really thinking about the markets. When we visited the market in Liberte 6, I never, ever thought about its strategy or its mechanisms. Also, the German students had visited the other markets so we had something to compare and talk about. Now I walk past the markets and think about them in another way.” — IPP student
What kind of food truck designs were we hoping for?
The concept is to help Abracadabra fulfill our vision and become a “baobab tree on wheels” — providing a source of economic, environmental and social sustainability for the community where it rolls up. A modern concept tied to Senegalese customs and traditions.
The students delivered: the designs evidenced an interesting harmony of the African students’ understanding of the importance and function of baobab trees, and the European students’ understanding of the growing culture around gourmet food trucks.
Abracadabra food truck designs appeared!
25-27 April 2017
After two days in Dakar, it was time to get this show on the road! With fourteen Münster students and eight IPP students, we took off on a 3-day tour to explore sustainable architecture, Senegalese culture, and links between the two — as well as any intersections with food!
When we explained to our funders and friends that we wanted to take African students to the countryside to learn more about Senegalese culture, we got a lot of raised eyebrows. Why would Senegalese, or African students, need to learn any more about Africa? Turns out, they had plenty to learn and were equally excited as us “toubabs”.
“I learned so much about Senegalese culture on this trip, even though I am Senegalese!” – IPP student
“People think Dakar is Senegal, Senegalese culture – but from this trip, from traveling, I learned for the first time that this Teranga we are famous for, it really exists! We were so well received everywhere.” – IPP student
So where did we drag these city kids and their professors? The tour included:
ELEMENTERRE earth brick factory, Gandigal
The ELEMENTERRE factory produces earth bricks used to construct buildings of all kinds. Earth bricks are key in sustainable building, as they are durable, ecological and provide local jobs.
“The machine to make the earth bricks is the perfect example of sustainability. It lets us use local material and not import it. It provides local jobs, and it is good for the environment.” – IPP student
Dalaal Diam Lodge, Somone
The Dalaal Diam eco-lodge boasts 100% self-produced electricity as well as waste water treatment. Each structure has a unique design and one is bioclimatic — using natural cooling systems.
“I was really impressed by the pool inside the house at the lodge. This has truly touched me.” – IPP student
Sobo Bade and Theatre Engouement, Toubab Dialaw
This very unique, very spiritual, eco-boutique hotel was founded by Gerard Chenet, playwright, philosopher and architect among his many other talents. Sobo Bade is the residential and performance space on the coast, made with many local materials and running on ecological principles. Chenet also built the Theatre Engouement a few kilometres away, a site to be seen!
“The theater was truly amazing. I had no idea something like this existed in my own country. I am already thinking, as are many of us, how to incorporate what we saw there into our work.” – IPP student
Grand Mosque and library, Touba
Touba is the spiritual home of the Mouride brotherhood in Senegal. Among many other institutions including a university, it boasts the largest mosque in Africa and an extensive library. With the help of our Baye Fall tour guide, we got a very privileged private tour of the library stacks – which many never get the permission to visit!
“I am not Senegalese, though I am Muslim. But I did not really understand the Islam here until we visited Touba. There I finally started, after a few years of being here, to understand the Islam here and why my friends do certain things.” – IPP student
Ndem & The Ndem Village Association
Ndem is home to the workshops of Maam Samba, Senegal’s first fair trade production line. The association of the village of Ndem has spent thirty years working with fifteen neighboring villages to create improved livelihoods and a sustainable ecosytem – economically, environmentally and socially.
“Ndem is really a great example to show that you do not need to go to Europe to improve your life. You can improve your life by working with others. They created all the structures they need to survive. They even have a school and a training center for women. They are autonomous. It is a great philosophy for development and it is even far from Dakar!” – IPP student
We were very lucky to get to work with such an enthusiastic, interesting group of students, as well as with outstanding partners like Maam Samba and Sobo Bade. We all got some new or fresh lessons in Senegalese history and values – and of course plenty of Senegalese cuisine!
In perfect alignment with Abracadabra’s mission to bring people together around food, we came home exhausted but nourished.
It was great to share another picture of Africa with the Germans. They told us they only see these terrible things in the news about Africa – and after traveling so far together in different places, we never saw any of these things – and this was really great for them and for us. They have an entirely new picture of Africa and this is important.—Student
Along for the Ride
April 27, 2017
To celebrate the first milestone of completing the workshop and study tour, an exposition and reception was hosted at and by the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung Dakar. With photos and designs illustrating the project and the growth of Abracadabra, guests could immerse themselves in the network of Abracadabra’s partners and the concept of creating community around food — and of course, there was a buffet!
What happens next?
On 30 June 2017, the Münster students will present their food truck designs before a jury of professors and the founders of Abracadabra. The winning concept will then go on to seek funding for the execution of the project. Provided they can find funding, the Münster students will return to Dakar in late summer and, together with their IPP counterparts, build the Abracadabra Food Truck.
Stay up to date
Phase I of the Parapolis Project was documented by Jürgen Fauth. His photos, together with sketches and concepts developed by the students, will be part of an exhibition on the project later this year. Make sure to “like” us and our partners and follow hashtag #parapolisprototype on social media.
Djeuredjeuf — Thank you so much!
The Parapolis Project is a collaboration between Abracadabra Magic Food, the Münster School of Architecture, and the Institut Polytechnique Panafricain and is supported by generous grants from the German Embassy Dakar, and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit.
The contact and exchange with the IPP students was a crucial part of the entire tour and was very succesful. The collaboration was absolutely essential: for exchange, for getting introduced to the city, the country, and the culture, and for broadening the horizons of all students.－Professor