40 306 Tropical Architecture


This course is obligatory for the ECO MOYO Education Centre studio students, others may join but the schedule is not to be like other 6 ECTS courses.

Course content

Tropical architecture consists of buildings specifically designed for tropical climates, with the objective of producing pleasant living conditions while reducing the buildings’ energy consumption, particularly the cooling load.

This course teaches students to develop the knowledge which makes them aware of the principles of sound architectural design in a tropical climate. The course will also impart the skills needed to analyse a particular architectural situation and offer adequate design solutions that will guarantee a good quality environment in tropical conditions.

Some of the most important architectural principles which apply to tropical architecture are simple to enumerate:

(1) Shading the sun and protecting from the rain using eaves, roof overhangs, verandas etc.;
(2) Using a double roof system to limit heat gain and to allow hot air to escape;
(3) Making sure that high thermal mass materials (materials that retain heat and release it slowly) are properly shaded;
(4) Limiting exposure to the sun on the east and west sides, so that the rising/setting sun does not penetrate and heat up the house;
(5) Opening the house to the prevailing breezes to facilitate the passage of cooling breezes;
(6) Placing openings in the ceiling to allow hot air to rise;
(7) Raising the structure above ground to avoid invasions by insect, pests, and floods.

Learning outcomes

1. To understand the need for adequate climatic design.
2. To study the relationship between architectural design and a tropical climate.
3. To study the interesting diversity that we find in the world due to the fact that every place, as each person, presents different characteristics and destinies.
4. To reflect on, and learn from, local, vernacular architecture as a means to understand solutions to climate whose origin stems from a condition of scarcity,
5. Familiarize the student with creative architectural solutions to conditions of scarcity.

Working and learning activities

The course will consist of a series of lectures and films which will introduce the subject. Each student will be asked to select one building which the student admires, sited in a tropical climate, and carry out a detailed study describing in detail the techniques and devices the building employs to cope with local climatic conditions. During the development of the course each student will present their study in seminar sessions as a means to assess progress and the quality of the content.

Work Effort:
The course is largely based on individual research and initiative. Although the research will be guided by the teacher, the study will largely be self-motivated. Students are expected to participate in all lectures, workshops and seminars.

Professor in charge

Christian Hermansen

Mandatory work requirements

Work requirements Number Number of approved Mandatory presence Comment

The course is largely based on individual research and initiative. Although the research will be guided by the teacher, the study will largely be self-motivated. Students are expected to participate in all lectures, workshops and seminars.


Assessment Date Duration Grade scale Oral examination
Rapport Individual Pass / Fail

Each student will produce a report on one tropical building, the examinations will be an evaluation of the understanding of tropical architecture that the student reveals through the report.

Reading lists / teaching materials

Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, Tropical architecture, NY: R.E. Krieger, 1964


Joo Hwa Bay, Boon Lay Ong, Tropical Sustainable Architecture Social and Environmental Dimensions  2006, London: Arch Press, 2006.

H. le Roux, Building on the Boundary — Modern Architecture in the Tropics, Social Identities, Volume 10, Number 4, 2004.

Elizabeth Karol, and Vincent Voon Chin Lai, Climatic Design and Changing Social Needs in the Tropics: A Case Study in Kuching, Sarawak, Sustainability 2014, 6, 6278-6292.

Iain Jackson, Jessica Holland, The Architecture of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, Farnham: Ashgate 2014.

Ola Uduku, Modernist architecture and ‘the tropical’ in West Africa: The tropical architecture movement in West Africa, 1948–1970, www.elsevier.com/locate/habitatint.

Shay Zak, New Tropical Classics, L.A.: Architecture/Interiors Press, 2011.

Lefaivre, Liane, Tzonis, Alexander e Stagno, Bruno. 2001. The Suppression and Rethinking of Regionalism and Tropicalism after 1945. [book author] Liane Lefaivre e Alexander Tzonis. Tropical Architecture – Critical Regionalism in the Age of Globalization. West Sussex : Wiley–Academy, 2001, cap. 2, pp. 14-58.

Moughtin, Cliff e Shirley, Peter. 2005. The environmental crisis and sustainable development. [book author] Cliff Mougtin e Peter Shirley. Urban design: Green dimensions. Second Edition. Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP; 30 Corporate Drive, Burlington MA 01803 : Architectural Press, 2005, 1.

Roux, Hannah le. 2003. The networks of tropical architecture. The journal of architecture. 2003, Vol. 8, pp. 337, 354.

Manuals of tropical housing and building part 1: climatic design / Otto Koenigsberger London: Longman, 1974

Roofs in the warm humid tropics / Otto Koenigsberger, Otto and Robert Lynn ( Architectural Association Papers, 1) London: Architectural Association, 1965

Village housing in the tropics / Jane Drew, Maxwell Fry and Harry Ford London: Lund Humphries, 1947