Prof. David Turnbull & Partner Receive Major Support Award for Africa Work

November 07, 2013

David Turnbull and Jane Harrison at their studio in New Jersey. Photo courtesy Michael Mancuso/NJ Times

David Turnbull and Jane Harrison at their studio in New Jersey. Photo courtesy Michael Mancuso/NJ Times

David Turnbull, Professor at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, and Jane Harrison, who with Prof. Turnbull co-founded PITCHAfrica, have had their WATERBANK Schools project recognized by a special award of support in this year's Buckminster Fuller Challenge.  The annual Challenge, organized by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, was established to, “support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems,” according to the BFI website.  The award ceremony, hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Design, will take place on November 18 at 7PM in The Great Hall.  It is free and open to the public with an RSVP.

WATERBANK Schools is an outgrowth of PITCHAfrica’s original mission to develop high-yield rainwater harvesting reservoirs that double as community centers and sports complexes in underdeveloped parts of Africa where clean water is at a premium. (See our story of September 2012.) WATERBANK projects use the same concept on a smaller scale. The first WATERBANK School, completed in Laikipia, Kenya in December 2012, in partnership with the Zeitz Foundation, provides classrooms, gardens, a theater and storage for 150,000 liters of water in a region where rainfall averages 600mm annually, according PITCHAfrica's website. Construction on two new WATERBANK School buildings, a dormitory for girls and a canteen, began construction Laikipia, Kenya in July.

The official award of the 2013 Buckminster Fuller Challenge went to Ecovative, a company that uses mushrooms to create packing materials, among other things.  But, for the first time, the Challenge’s corporate sponsor, Interface, Inc., elected to award an unexpected additional prize. “The WATERBANK School's simple design is an elegant and practical way of addressing sanitation, health, and education," Dan Hendrix, chairman and CEO of Interface, Inc., said. “We're pleased to support WATERBANK Schools by providing funding and access to experts who will help them expand WATERBANK Schools throughout the developing world.”

"We are delighted to be receiving the Interface Support Award," Prof. Turnbull said. "We know that Interface's support will have a very significant impact on our ability to take the WATERBANK Schools Initiative to a new level of engagement, ultimately supporting the production of 'open-source' documentation including construction manuals that respond to variable climate and geo-physical conditions. The Award includes financial support and the opportunity for us to interact with the exceptional knowledge network that Interface Inc. have built over the past few decades."

Projects & Links

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.