At age 24, Eric Bigot began volunteer work for the French Foreign Affairs service, where his assignment was with the Ministry of Housing in Zambia. The stint was supposed to last 16 months, but Bigot stayed for five years, spearheading the design and construction of a community center where orphaned and disabled children could congregate and learn. Bigot says of his involvement in the project, “To date it’s been the most rewarding, deep down, having helped children to survive and get basic education.”
Bigot’s next stop was New York City, where the seeds for his prefab venture were planted. The projects he worked on in the metropolis were a shock to the system after having been in the trenches in Zambia. “The idea of selecting carpet colors was quite meaningless,” says Bigot. Needing more purpose, he made a personal commitment to create a compact prefab design that would effect real change.
Work for the United Nations brought Bigot to South Africa, where Zenkaya came to fruition. “One of the goals of Zenkaya was to create employment in a country crippled by [an unemployment rate of over 25 percent],” explains the architect, who likes to call himself a social entrepreneur. With the prototype unit now complete, and production plans in development, Bigot is betting prefab will create opportunity, shelter, and change once again. zenkaya.com
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