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  7. Gohar Khatoon Girls' School / Robert Hull + University of Washington

Gohar Khatoon Girls' School / Robert Hull + University of Washington

  • 02:00 - 23 September, 2015
Gohar Khatoon Girls' School / Robert Hull + University of Washington
Gohar Khatoon Girls' School / Robert Hull + University of Washington, © Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

© Nic Lehoux © Nic Lehoux © Nic Lehoux © Nic Lehoux + 33

  • Architects

  • Location

    Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan
  • Design Team

    Yasaman Esmaili, Christopher Garland, David Miller, FAIA
  • Lead Architect and Designer

    Robert Hull, FAIA, in collaboration with the University of Washington, Department of Architecture
  • Area

    1700.0 sqm
  • Project Year

  • Photographs

  • Project Architect

    Elizabeth Golden, Assistant Professor, UW
  • Construction

    Jason Simmons (Afghanistan American Friendship Foundation), Sayed Ali Mortazavy, Hussain Ahmady, Farkhonda Rajaby, Airokhsh Faiz Qaisary
  • Structural and Civil Engineer

    Solaiman Salahi
  • Daylighting

    Michael Gilbride, UW Integrated Design Lab
  • Ventilation

    Allan Montpellier, PAE
  • Metalwork

    Jack Hunter
  • Systems Research

    Mariam Kamara
  • Research

    UW Studio Participants - Bryan Brooks, Marcus Crider, Grace Crofoot, Sarah Eddy, Yasaman Esmaili, Christopher Garland, Mariam Kamara, Michelle Kang, Kevin Lang, Carolyn Lacompte, Benjamin Maestas, Jaclyn Merlet, Holly Schwarz, Mazohra Thami, Andrew Thies, Mackenzie Waller, Patricia Wilhelm
  • More Specs Less Specs
© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Text description provided by the architects. Located in the center Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, the Gohar Khatoon Girls’ School replaces an older structure that was in an extreme state of disrepair and expands the capacity of a historically significant urban school. The 2,000 m2 complex provides space for kindergarten through grade twelve classes, serving at least 3,000 students or more a day.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Mazar-i-Sharif is home to several universities, and Gohar Khatoon–acting as a gateway to higher education–is positioned to become a key institution for educating several thousand women and girls in an important urban center. Girls’ schools are already considered to be major contributors in Afghanistan’s push toward development and these institutions serve as powerful mechanisms for inclusion within Afghan society. Schools are the setting where women and girls will negotiate this transition, and Gohar Khatoon has been designed to support this process by promoting stability, comfort, and community engagement.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

An urban oasis for children 

Larger cities such as Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif are currently witnessing the disappearance of outdoor green space due to urbanization. The school responds to this deficiency by offering local children much-needed access to fresh air, plants, and trees. School is oftentimes the only place where women are permitted to socialize outside the home: outdoor activity spaces provide a culturally acceptable place for physical fitness, and seating, and gathering areas have been designed to promote social interaction between students. Educational gardening has a long tradition in Persian culture and several areas on the school grounds have been planted with fruit-bearing trees or have be designated as vegetable and flower gardens to be tended by the students. Water is a precious resource in the city and all of the landscaping is irrigated using biologically treated wastewater.

Site Plan
Site Plan

Community Engagement

Visioning sessions provided students an opportunity to learn about their new school and allowed them to participate in the design process. Art has also been an important medium for engagement at the school. Six emerging female artists were selected to install their work in the school’s central staircases.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Comfort, sustainability, and self-sufficiency

Many children going to school in Afghanistan must do so in less than comfortable conditions. Schools are often connected to a limited, or unstable power supply, and these institutions operate on almost no budget, often leaving insufficient funds for heating fuel. In order to overcome these obstacles, the Gohar Khatoon School is positioned to maximize solar heat gain in the winter months and natural ventilation during the summer and shoulder seasons.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

The school’s thick masonry walls provide high thermal mass for absorbing and retaining heat. A central stairwell in each classroom block forms a “sunspace” that captures heat for warming the building in winter. Operable floor-to-ceiling wall vents and door transoms allow warm air to circulate through the north-facing classrooms. South-facing classrooms receive enough direct solar gain to operate autonomously.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Cooling is achieved with a combination of cross and stack ventilation. Large seasonal doors at the end of the sunspaces can be opened in the warmer months, and transoms, located over the central hallways, help to pull air through the building.


The school’s facades take their cue from Afghanistan’s rich history of masonry construction and the bright, multicolored windows echo the vibrant tiles of Mazar-i-Sharif’s famous Blue Mosque. The facades also fulfill the pragmatic requirement of balancing daylight with solar heat gain through the use of wall depth, as well as opening size, maximizing solar gain in winter and shading glass surfaces in summer. Light colored ceilings also help to balance and diffuse light throughout the classrooms.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Built-in environmental strategies foster autonomy and self-sufficiency and allow the school to perform under difficult circumstances using few resources. Capitalizing on low-tech climate responses results in a dependable institution that provides students and staff shelter and comfort for the long term. This is an important aspect to consider at a time when foreign aid to Afghanistan is dwindling and NATO troops are leaving the country.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

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Cite: "Gohar Khatoon Girls' School / Robert Hull + University of Washington" 23 Sep 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884
© Nic Lehoux

阿富汗Gohar Khatoon女子学校 / Robert Hull + University of Washington

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