Students from the Howard University School of Architecture traveled to Liberia March 6-17 as part of a design contest to build a new digital library for the African nation’s William V.S. Tubman University.
Officials from Tubman University and the Tubman Foundation asked the School of Architecture and Design to lead the project more than a year ago. As part of its 10-year master plan, the institution seeks to build a new “E-Brary” to replace an older building which the university has outgrown. The discussions with Howard led to the Harriet Tubman Centennial Design Challenge which accepted entries from architecture students from Morgan State, Tuskegee and Howard universities.
Three Howard students were selected for the project and were placed on teams with counterparts from Morgan State and Tuskegee. Last month, architecture fourth-year students Drew Meekins, Lawrence Wyman and Evan Smith, along with school representative Logosou Kudayan, traveled to Liberia with teammates from Morgan and Tuskegee to visit the site of the new library.
After a short stay in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, students traveled to the city of Harper, where Tubman University is located. The teams returned to Monrovia for major presentations of their final projects before Liberian Vice President Nyuma Boakai and Tubman University President Elizabeth Davis-Russell. While in Monrovia, the students attended a dinner in their honor and were received by the Liberian Chamber of Architects.
The journey from Monrovia to Harper proved to be arduous. The trip was initially planned as an hour-long flight, but last-minute maintenance delays forced the group to traverse the distance over land. What resulted was a 36-hour adventure because of car trouble and precarious road conditions in the Liberian hinterland. Still, students took advantage of the stops along the way to gather first-hand knowledge about Liberian culture. They ended up visiting villages in six of Liberia’s 15 counties. They were able to investigate local architecture, hold conversations with local chiefs and play soccer with children.
“Prior to the project, I didn’t have a strong idea of what African culture was like,” Meekins said. “While I was there, it sank in how much Liberians value education. This library represents the advancement of the cultural, educational and instructional infrastructure of the nation.”
Architectural designs are currently under review by Liberian officials. Once a final selection is made, a team of architects and builders in the country will execute the design.
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