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Competition Semi-finalist for: 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom

The goal of this project was twofold: create a structure that helped the local network of Malawian teaching, and provide a suitable location for essential healthcare, all in the heart of southern Africa.

Due to the government’s policies concerning education, they require that a proper school experience be located no more than three kilometers from any able student no matter where they live throughout the country. Their clinical facilities are vastly under-realized as well, and many who need immediate and basic care cannot receive it. This is due to the large numbers of hospital beds throughout Malawi which are occupied by AIDS patients as a part of the ongoing epidemic there.

In order to be able to create a building that has no primary site conditions, it is imperative that it be of a modular nature, able to be built quickly and easily across the length and breadth of a 94,080 sq km country. When a site is selected, preparations begin immediately in the form of a foundation of mud-brick piers which are laid out according to the primary plan stipulations. All that is required is that the foundation lays East / West, as according to the main plans, due to elements like sun exposure, etc. Once the piers have set, a sturdy frame of local-cut timbers is laid, over which is applied a layer of structural wooden decking.

With the above in place, the primary load-bearing posts and wall framing, in the form of easily transported prefabricated light gauge steel connections, are brought in and assembled. This includes a pre-fab truss system in the form of right triangles facing opposing directions, laying the basis for a butterfly roof, which will be installed last. Along the North / South axis of the plan, two sets of telescoping partitions are built retracted near the steel posts there, and can be extended into the middle, thus dividing the structure in half for whatever purpose necessary, be it clinical or educational.

Next, again according to the plan stipulations as influenced by the individual school’s unique sighting conditions, the primary design feature will be laid into place. A series of louver panels, swiveling blackboards, and cross-supported panels for lateral stability of the structure will be laid in to make up the school’s envelope. The particulars of the envelope can vary depending on local tree cover of the site, prevailing wind conditions, etc.

The panels are all built of relatively small, easily carried segments and then pieced together on site. Once built and set into place, the louver panels can rotate open, thus allowing ventilation, or fit closed, protecting against weather. The entire panel can also swing out from its frame stay supported up to 90 degrees and provide extra shading for nearby outdoor activities. The blackboard panels can also be rotated 180 degrees and locked into place, allowing class to be conducted outdoors should the weather and class size be appropriate. The support panels, while offering structure, also have on their inward-facing sides shelving for student and teacher materials and storage.

Lastly, a roof of structural wood decking is applied to the truss and roof frame, completing the school.

With a structure of this nature able to be built quickly and interchangeably across Malawi, and its potential to be used as both school and makeshift medical facility means that as a result of its construction, the infrastructure of the entire country is improved, and in manifold ways.

Mud Brick Masonry
Timber Framing
Timber Decking
Light Gauge Steel Framing
Clear or Frosted Composite Plastic (recycled materials for use adjacent to trusses in light filtering between roof decking and wall panel framing)




Competition Category Entered

Competition Details

  • Name: 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: May 4, 2009
  • Submission Deadline: June 1, 2009
  • Entry Fee: $25 USD Developed Nations , $0 USD Developing Nations
  • Award: $50,000 for the winning school for classroom construction and upgrading, and $5,000 stipend for the design team.
  • Contact: Sandhya
  • Status: Winners Announced

The competition entry ID for this project is 4699.

Project Details

NAME: Modularity
START DATE: January 28, 2009
CURRENT PHASE: Design complete
PROJECT TYPE: Education Facility - Primary School
, Architecture for Humanity

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