Designer schools, Africa’s future

2012-05-05 16:29

A college built in a quarry that rejuvenated a wetland and creates the sense of a village to make students feel secure.

Used shipping containers repurposed to create sports centres with attachable grandstands.

A project that asked pupils to become teachers by giving them cameras to document their environment – and then designed a school and science centre tailored to their needs.

These are just three of the submissions for the second Afrisam-Saia awards for sustainable architecture.

They offer alternative African learning environments that will make teachers around the world sit up and take notice.

In Phokeng, North West, Activate Architects along with Afritects won a competition hosted by Kgosi Lebone II of the Royal Bafokeng Nation to create a college for 800 students that would serve as a new education model with accommodation, farming and alternative teaching methods.

The transparent structure aimed to “de-institutionalise” learning to form a set of “village clusters” with central outdoor courtyards and light filtered as if through trees.

The college was built in a disused sand quarry and rehabilitated a watercourse to create wetlands containing indigenous vegetation.

A dozen local artists were trained to create detailed mosaic art on the site that portrays the relationship between the Bafokeng and the land.

Solar geysers, storm water harvesting, a black water treatment plant, waste recycling and a feeding scheme from vegetable gardens contributed to the project being named a finalist for this year’s awards.

Meanwhile, in northern Limpopo’s Vhembe District, East Coast Architects was given the nod for its design of Vele Secondary School.

Part of the Creating Schools initiative, the project based its development on input from the local community.

Future pupils were given cameras and taught to map the area, including their routes to school. They identified hazards – leopards, baboons and snakes among them – as well as special sites in the landscape.

Their photos were exhibited to raise funds, but also inspired the school’s design and the selection of its building materials.

In the end, the school installed a digital weather station to create effective solar design and rainwater harvesting strategies.
Science labs and IT centres were added and pupils were trained to serve as guides in nearby game reserves.

Another striking entry emerged from Piketberg in the Western Cape when a shipping company invited Tsai Design Studio to find a new life for used transportation containers.

A prototype for the Safmarine Sports Centre was born.

Intended for school fields or community spaces in informal settlements, the containers serve as a base from which to encourage sports for youngsters.

The robust building houses a coach’s office, two change rooms and an equipment store.

A shelter is attached to provide shade for spectators while a gap in the roof offers ventilation and light.

The roof structure folds down to become a source of revenue when used as an advertising billboard or a movie screen.

A small grandstand finishes off this remarkable piece of recycling that the architects like to compare to the architectural equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.

The Afrisam-Saia winners will be announced in Johannesburg in October after being featured in an exhibition in Cape Town as part of the Architecture ZA biennial in September.

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