Text description provided by the architects. Sra Pou vocational school is a vocational training center and community building in Sra Pou village, Cambodia. The school is designed by Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen from Finland and built during spring 2011. The architects took care of both building design and construction management on site.
The purpose of the vocational training centre is to encourage and teach poor families to earn their own living. The Sra Pou community is one of the unprivileged communities in Cambodia, who have been evicted from their homes in the city to the surrounding countryside. They lack basic infrastructure, decent built environment and secure income. The new vocational school provides professional training and helps the people to start sustainable businesses together. It is also a place for public gathering and democratic decision-making for the whole community. A local NGO organizes the teaching.
The project was started by young architects (BSc) Hilla Rudanko and Anssi Kankkunen in an Aalto university design studio in spring 2010. During the studio, they travelled to Cambodia to find a design task with a local NGO. The studio works were imaginary, but Rudanko and Kankkunen decided to organize the construction of Sra Pou vocational school, since there was an urgent need for it and their design inspired both the community and donors. The firm Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen was founded during the design process. Now, it is an adventurous architecture firm specializing in public buildings in various settings. The firm is part of Finnish humanitarian architecture NGOUkumbi.
The school building is made out of local materials with local workforce. The aim was to teach people how to make the most out of the materials that are easily available, so that they can apply the same construction techniques for their own houses in the future. As the materials are scarce, the beautiful red soil was utilized to make sundried soil blocks. The whole school is hand-made: no machines or prefabricated parts were used in the building work. This allowed employing many people from the community, and it kept all techniques simple and transferable.
Using local materials and techniques, the designers have created a beautiful architectural composition. The soil block walls repeat the warm red shade of the surrounding earth. They are laid out with small holes, so that indirect sunlight and gentle wind come in to cool the spaces – and at night, the school glows like a lantern through these small openings. The whole community space is open, providing comfortable shaded outdoor space. The colorful handicraft doors are visible from far away and welcome visitors coming along the main road.