The Armadillo Crèche / Cornell University Sustainable Design

  • 24 May 2013
  • Educational Selected Works
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Architects: Cornell University Sustainable Design
Location: , South Africa
Year: 2011
Photographs: Courtesy of Cornell University Sustainable Design

Professors: Jeremy Foster, Kifle G Gebremedhin, Werner Goehner, George Hascup, Alex Mergold, Arthur Ovaska, Andrea Simitch
Students: Barry Beagen (Project Director), Andrew Fu (Lead Designer), Shuping Liu (Construction Drawing Coordinator), Thomas Shouler (Structural Engineer), Jonathan Leape (Construction Manager), Mikey Jiang (Utilities), Karen Chi-Chi Lin (Marketing and Communications), Carly Dean (Exhibition Director and On-Site Safety Manager), Jesse McElwain (Director of Development) Sidney Beaty, 
Joe Beaudette, Yen Chiang, Christine Chung, Alex Cote,
 Jorge Cuervo Manrique, Mercedes Cuvi,
 Will Dibernardo, Robert Dicker,
 Juliette Dubroca, 
Mary Bray Erickson, Ben Fleury, 
Jessica Fracassini, Stephanie Glass, Stephanie Gitto, Mikhail Grinwald, Wendy Gu,
 Peter Gudonis,
 Laura Hammerer, Donald Hicks,
 Wei-Yen Hsieh, Siyabonga Jezile, Alexandrea Klimoski, Yoonjee Koh, 
Joecyln Kuo,
 Tiffany Kuo,
 Johnny Lau,
 Brian Lee,
 Michael Lee,
 Jacqueline Liu,
 Daniel Lu,
 Erin Pellegrino, 
Lexi Quint,
 Jake Rudin,
 Eric Rutgers,
 Lillian Simon,
 Alex Simpson,
 Tito Soto, 
Elliot Sperling,
 Carina Steinhoff, 
Jose Tijerina,
Daniel Torres,
 Maria Villarraga,
 Shu Wang
Local Construction Team: Ntumeko Fodom, Siyabonga Jezile, Beerlina Kedibone, Thobelahi Kotji, Anthony Longo, Oupa Mabuza, Patience Mahlangu, Tlantla Mahlangu, Winnie Mdekazi, Adill Mike, Apacia Ndubane, Mouso Nkosi, Looseboy Nthogelany, Lefa Phogole,Rejinah Seefane, Dinah Sefularo, Kara Schnoes, Tshepo Simon, Victor Ubisi
Concept Design: Andrew Fu in collaboration with Nicholas Cassab-Gheta, Manuela Garcia, Abigail Jean, Lingbo Sun, and Yoana Taseva under the guidance of Professor Arthur Ovaska

Courtesy of Cornell University Sustainable Design

Armadillo Crèche is the design for an early childhood development (ECD) center in Johannesburg, South Africa. It accommodates 80 children and houses a teacher-training center. Standing on an elevated site, the ECD center is a beacon for education.

Courtesy of Cornell University Sustainable Design

To embrace the necessity of a fence, the design likens itself to an armadillo: it curls in on itself, protecting its soft underbelly with a hard shell. The design integrates the boundary condition with the buildings and landscape, creating zones of different scales for various activities as it unfurls. At the heart of the ECD center lie communal programs: a semi-outdoor dining space and a paved play area. These communal spaces are angled to open up to views of the natural conservation zone.

Courtesy of Cornell University Sustainable Design

The school is a product of a two year process orchestrated by Cornell University Sustainable Design, an interdisciplinary student-led organization at Cornell University. Students, with the help of academic advisors and industry professionals, executed the project through a semester of research, a semester of design development integrated into the Bachelor of Architecture comprehensive design studio curriculum, and three months of construction. Students collaborated with local partners in construction and education to refine the design. Over thirty student volunteers traveled to South Africa to construct the school alongside local laborers from the surrounding neighborhood, Cosmo City.

Courtesy of Cornell University Sustainable Design

Strong emphasis is placed on sustainable passive sustainable technologies to decrease cost and energy dependency. Conscientious decisions in resiliency are found in all dimensions of the project: the architectural design, construction methods, material production and purchasing, included facilities, project financing and day-to-day operations. (A year after construction, the ECD center was still not connected to the grid. The teachers, however, were not worried: they explained that these passive technologies create a bright, warm, and efficacious school without the use of electricity.)


This project was completed with generous support from Cornell University, in partnership with Education Africa, Play-With-A-Purpose, Basil Read Developments, and the City of


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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "The Armadillo Crèche / Cornell University Sustainable Design" 24 May 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>