Together with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), MASS Design Group is helping to build 15 conservation primary schools over the next 10 years in African landscapes, home to some of world's most important wildlife populations, including elephants, rhinos, great apes, and lions. They will design non-traditional educational campuses for primary school children that offer lessons and other services extending beyond the classroom walls.
"We're asking ourselves, how can architecture promote conservation? This question has guided our approach in designing these schools to help AWF achieve its conservation objectives," explained Michael Murphy, who co-founded MASS in 2008 with Alan Ricks."Early decisions like situating schools in safe areas away from wildlife corridors and designing structures to be adaptive and low-impact on the surrounding environment with edible gardens and electricity promote conservation of natural resources and community development. We want the students and the community to self-identify with their school, and to have a safe environment to cherish and protect the nearby wildlife."
Why is a conservation group building schools in Africa? According to AWF's CEO Patrick Bergin, education provides a compelling entrée into engaging in conservation discussions with rural communities. Those who grow up without access to education are often forced to exploit the natural resources around them to survive, including cutting trees for charcoal and timber and poaching animals for food or trade.
AWF will provide technology, teacher training and incentives, and conservation curricula for each school to ensure a rigorous, enriching learning environment for rural schoolchildren in Africa. AWF's long-term commitment will directly benefit more than 6,000 students from multiple countries across sub-Saharan Africa—including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia—and incentivize local communities to protect wildlife and natural resources in their area.