School for Burmese Refugees / 2bw Studio

Courtesy of 2bw Studio

This design proposal by 2bw Studio for the School for Burmese Refugees, an international competition put on by Building Trust International, responds to its situation by providing a series of sheltered spaces and enclosures that encourage children to learn, play and be rehabilitated into the local community. The design is intended to be colorful, warm and promote a feeling of safety and sanctuary where children will be able to develop and learn new skills. The design is based on a modular construction system which allows the buildings to easily expand to suit future uses or a different site if required. More images and architects’ description after the break.

The building of a new school in Thailand, for Burmese refugees, highlights the need we as humans have to learn and to teach, no matter what the circumstances we may find ourselves in. As Burma is responsible for more refugees than any other country, there is a poignant importance to providing an environment, which is educational, caring, and protective for displaced children. Part of this provision must include finding new responses to educational buildings and refugee relief. Traditionally school buildings are a valued part of the community they serve, adding both character and focus to their environment.

Courtesy of 2bw Studio

The arrangement of the building blocks creates a protected space that is easily visible from most angles ensuring that staff members can monitor the children and ensure their safety whilst they learn and play within the school grounds. The primary entrance is from the south and all visitors must pass by the office / admin area thus ensuring a high degree of visual security.

Courtesy of 2bw Studio

Two primary ideas were considered, firstly the need to create an environment that would serve as a hub of learning. A school that encouraged Work, Play and Rest. We envisaged a plan to bring this about by incorporating a series of perimeter buildings, with a central play area. This is easily adaptable, allowing the school to remain functional and reflect any changing requirements of sites. Linked with this was the need to ensure the school would relate to its environment and would ‘sit’ lightly on the landscape.

Courtesy of 2bw Studio

The second primary idea considered was the design and construction of the school and the need to ensure that the building was not only easily constructed, but equally easily dismantled as having to be relocated at short notice being a real possibility with the future.


Keeping the “demountable” aspect in mind, with the materials we chose, it made vital sense to work on a detail of construction, which was both uncomplicated and versatile using as few fixings as possible, to maintain structural stability and aesthetic quality. Almost all fixings are by simple wood ‘tying’ blocks, secured using only one through bolt or threaded rod. This eliminates the need for any specialist equipment or labor to construct the buildings. This can become a local community building that is actually built by the community it serves.


The wall, floor and roof panels are all of a standard size (1220mm x 610mm), cut from an standardized plywood panel of 1220mm x 2440mm, this makes the panels easier to handle and move, if the site should change in the future. The colors for the panels reflect the setting of the environment; earthy and natural in tone and intensity. The wall panels themselves, when constructed, due to the nature of their being retrievable and re-usable, will almost certainly create a new, varied pattern in the façade itself; creating a new school for each new site. The fact that the vertical bamboo columns are left visible demonstrate our wish to retain a visible link between the materials used, the form, and the landscape.


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Cite: Alison Furuto. "School for Burmese Refugees / 2bw Studio" 16 Dec 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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