After 6 months and 4 rounds of jurying, Architecture for Humanity, a charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and brings professional design services to needy communities, just recognized eight team finalists for the 2009 Open Architect Challenge: Classrooms. The competition attracted 10,000 architects, teachers and students who came together to develop designs for more than 500 schools in 65 countries. “This initiative invited the architecture, design and engineering community to collaborate directly with students and teachers to rethink the classroom of the future. Designers entering the competition were given a simple mandate: collaborate with real students in real schools in their community to develop real solutions,” explained Cameron Sinclair, the co-founder for Architecture for Humanity and this competition.
The finalists include: Adaptable Hillside Classroom by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios & Architecture for Humanity UK, Bamboowood School by Petr Kostner, Martina Sobotkova, Sona Huberova, Classroom for the Saltpan Community by Cohesion Foundation: Rajesh Kapoor, Prashant Solanky, Bharat Karamchandani, Kiran Vaghela, Teton Valley Community School by Section Eight Design, A Sustainable Community Classroom by Gifford, House In The Wood by Built Form, LLC / Northwestern University Settlement House, Justified Architecture in a Landscape of Transformation by Arquitectura Justa: Wolfgang Timmer, Fabiola Uribe, T. Luke Young, and Blurred Classroom by Gensler.
We would like to congratulate not only the eight finalists, but all participants who dedicated their time, effort and design skills for such an importance cause.
Project descriptions and images of the eight finalists after the break.
The Adaptable Hillside Classroom was designed for the Lake Bunyonyi Christian Community Vocational Secondary School, a boarding school close to Rwanda that is funded by its sister charity, the Lake Bunyonyi Development Company. The school needed more classrooms and multi-use space to accommodate their growing number of students. The classroom design incorporates a cranked plan with opening side walls that enable the space to be used as a large assembly or event space. The new space follows the slope of the hillside to reduce the amount of excavation. The levels are staggered to form different tiers angled round in plan and the outer walls open onto a covered external space that face inward, creating a natural gathering space.
Of all the local schools in the Kavre district, Antarastriya Yuba Barsais has the highest potential to be enlarged to a full primary & secondary educational institution with significant impact on the level and accessibility of education. For the Bamboowood School, one of the main incentives was to focus on the local resources to raise awareness in the community of the merits of traditional architecture. By utilizing the community’s participation and implementing local materials, the new classroom offers a flexible and enlarged learning atmosphere.
The Teton Valley Community School is a non-profit independent school located in Victor, Idaho, which is one of the most underfunded school systems in the nation. The school is located on a two acre site within two existing residences that have been transformed into classrooms. Due to space constraints, half of the school’s students are located at a satellite campus nearby creating a disjointed school facility. After meeting with the students, teachers and parents, the Teton Valley Community School‘s master plan includes five proposed classroom buildings. The design allows for flexibility in their spacing and construction. The classroom buildings can be either site built or prefabricated in two modules that can be shipped to the site. The design objectives were to create flexible spatial configurations, reduce the school’s ecological footprint, and create a strong connection to the outdoors in response to the mountain climate.
The goal of the Sustainable Community Classroom was to not only create a learning environment for a large class, but also make it easy for the teacher to manage the resources and equipment of the school. Working off the idea that a teacher must be able to see all the children from any point in the teaching area, and that the children must feel connected to her and feel included in the class, the teaching area has a linear form with dimensions that allow the teacher to see the whole class easily without the length causing problems. A teacher’s annex that doubles as both a secure storage area and an office, allows the teacher to store valuable commodities such as books and to store furniture when the teaching space is being used for community purposes. Flat surfaces on doors and partitions can be painted with blackboard paint and have the means to attach children’s drawings and work allowing the students to influence their environment and create displays they can be proud of.
For House In The Wood, the school wished to develop the physical, mental and emotional skills children need to contribute to the larger society. When working with the students and faculty, the children expressed an interest in an environment that they could adjust while teachers felt the spaces must be flexible and foster the children’s creativity. The idea of extending the classroom into the natural environment furthers the goals of teaching positive lifestyles, leadership skills, self-motivation and awareness of the world outside one’s immediate context. The orientation of the building elements on the site reinforces the surroundings as the space created within the enclosed structure becomes an operable frame for viewing the outdoors. Through the use of wall openings, classrooms extend into the natural environment while others provide views of the lake or garden.
The Waldorf Educational and Social Organization is in a section of Bogotá with the lowest socio-economic indices in the city and the highest number of people displaced by Colombia’s internal conflict. Justified Architecture in a Landscape of Transformation is created on the fundamental premise that architecture should be the interface that allows encounters between society and education. The project team created a form that will serve as a ”classroom of the future” and connect with the surrounding environment. Utilizing ecologically responsive materials, the design creates two new levels where artistic stone, wood, weaving, music and painting classes are held covered by a green roof providing areas for environmental education, open air learning and musical performances. A fusion of art and nature reinforces the school’s pedagogy in a project where architecture aims to transform students who in turn will transform society.
The Blurred Classroom focuses on the fact that the classroom is not a confining box, but rather an open learning environment. The idea is to unfold and unpack the box, thus blurring the lines of how the classroom is traditionally known. Certain portions of the existing building are reused, while other parts, such as the corridors, are completely transformed. The unfolded boxes provide a variety of learning environments that allow for traditional group space to become activated communal space.
Today, the organization is being recognized at the White House as part of the National Design Awards (Michelle Obama is hosting) for their commitment to refocus attention on the issue of classrooms and education in the United States. Next month one of these teams will be announced as the overall winner and awarded $50,000 toward the improvement of their school.
Project: Adaptable Hillside Classrooms Design Team: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios & Architecture for Humanity UK Engineering Team: Buro Happold Partner/ Location: Bunyonyi Community School, Kabale, Uganda
Project: Bamboowood School Design Team: Petr Kostner, Martina Sobotkova, Sona Huberova, Czech Republic Partner/ Location: Antarastriya Yuba Barsais, Kavre, Central Nepal
Project: Classroom for the saltpan community, Cohesion Foundation Design Team: Rajesh Kapoor, Prashant Solanky, Bharat Karamchandani, Kiran Vaghela, Gujarat, India Partner/Location: Cohesion Foundation, Kutch, Gujarat, India
Project: Teton Valley Community School Design team: Section Eight Design, Idaho, United States Partner/ Location: Teton Valley Community School, Victor, Idaho, United States
Project: A Sustainable Community Classroom Design Team: Gifford, London, UK Partner/ Location: Building Tomorrow, Uganda
Project: House In The Wood / Rowe Elementary School Design team: Built Form, LLC / Northwestern University Settlement House, Chicago, United States Partner/Location: Northwestern University Settlement House, Delavan, Wisconsin, United States
Project: Justified Architecture in a Landscape of Transformation Design Team: Arquitectura Justa – Wolfgang Timmer, Fabiola Uribe, T. Luke Young, Bogota, Colombia Partner/ Location: Waldorf Educational & Social Organization, Ciudad Bolívar, Bogota, Colombia
Project: Blurred Classroom Design team: Gensler, New York, United States Partner/ Location: Future Leaders’ Institute, New York, New York, United States