PLACE By Design Wins Cool School Design Competition

PLACE By Design Wins Cool School Design Competition

A team from Bristol-based firm PLACE By Design has been selected as the winner of Building Trust International’s Cool School Design Competition, beating out 475 other entrants. Located in Khovd, Mongolia, the project presents an innovative educational space that integrates existing facilities and is capable of withstanding the region’s extreme weather patterns.

Inspired to update the substandard conditions of an existing school at the base of the Mongol Altai Mountains, the team was faced with several challenges. The current Tsast Altai School is the oldest in the region, serving 500 children in eight dark, confined, and decaying classrooms. To counter these issues and create an environment more suitable for learning, the competition challenged participants to not only consider the building's durability in the harsh weather, but also “lighting, ventilation, materials, space, comfort, accessibility, adaptability and aesthetics.”

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Courtesy of Building Trust International

The winning design team - Kyle Wylde, Nathan Woodward, Stephen Hawkins and Charley Burrough - accomplished this ambitious task by modernizing traditional Mongolian building typologies to create a resultant form that simultaneously speaks to its place and time. Taking cues from the school’s existing framework, the facility methodically intertwines entrances, circulation, and learning spaces in a way that combines old and new functions within a larger, cohesive institution.

Classroom interior. Image Courtesy of Building Trust International

To seamlessly connect with the established building, the addition employs a simple material palette that both adheres to the contest’s restricted construction budget and maximizes thermal performance. A dichotomy is created through the incorporation of bright colors in the classrooms and hallways, fostering a playful and inviting atmosphere.

Floor plan

The scheme also expands the school, adding two additional classrooms to accommodate 100 students, a multipurpose community “learning hub,” storage areas, and integrated indoor restrooms. The project received praise not only for its emphasis on local tradition, but also its ability to be reproduced in regions with similar climates around the world.

Interior of learning hub. Image Courtesy of Building Trust International

The design was selected by a jury of representatives from Building Trust International, World Vision, UNICEF, the Mongolian Education Alliance, GIZ, and the local government and school committee. PLACE By Design’s extension is scheduled for construction during summer 2015.

To view the full project submissions of the winner and honorable mentions, visit And check out our coverage of the competition below.

"Cool School" Finalists Respond to Mongolia's Extreme Climate

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About this author
Cite: Holly Giermann. "PLACE By Design Wins Cool School Design Competition" 23 May 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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