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Kéré Architecture uses design as a catalyst for community living

Education gets a new life at this small town - Koudougou - where Kéré Architecture has designed a humble school using ‘local’ as their first clue and ‘community’ as their second.

by Meghna MehtaPublished on : May 21, 2019

While architects have for long been focusing on development in the urban communities and building for change towards advancement, it is important to look at the role of the architect in recent times, when resources are limited and design can change the way a community lives, dwells and thrives. Kéré Architecture has been synonymous to building exemplar structures that uplift the local communities, socially, economically and morally, providing a proud support system through educational, community as well as social institutions.

The Lycée Schorge Secondary School project is one such initiative located in the third most populated city in Burkina Faso in West Africa, which not only sets a new standard for educational excellence in the region, but also provides a source of inspiration by showcasing locally sourced building materials in an innovative and modern way.

The design of the school in the Koudougou city consists of nine modules, which accommodate a series of classrooms and administration rooms, one of which also houses a dental clinic providing care for students. The walls of these modules are made from locally-harvested laterite stone, which, when first extracted from the earth, can be easily cut and shaped into bricks and when further left exposed to the atmosphere above ground, begins to harden. This local material functions effectively as a wall system for the classrooms due of its thermal mass capabilities. The stonewall technique, in combination with the uniquely designed wind-catching towers and overhanging roofs, exponentially lowers the temperature of the interior spaces.

Another major factor that naturally helps ventilate and illuminate the interiors is the massive undulating ceiling. The wave-like pattern of plaster and concrete components has been slightly offset from each other, much like keeping the windows of a car slightly open during summers, to let the cool breeze in, allowing the interior space to breathe and expel hot stagnant air. The off-white color of the ceiling serves to diffuse and distribute indirect daylight, providing ample natural light during the day while keeping the interior learning space protected from direct solar heat gain.

  • An aerial view of the school Image Credit: Iwan Baan
  • A view of the school's external facade Image Credit: Andrea Maretto
  • Interior landscape Image Credit: Iwan Baan
  • Shaded internal corridors Image Credit: Iwan Baan
  • ClassroomsImage Credit: Iwan Baan

A system of wooden screens has been developed to wrap around these classrooms like a transparent fabric. This secondary façade is created using eucalyptus wood and acts as a shading element for the spaces immediately surrounding the classrooms. The screens not only function to protect the earthen spaces from corroding dust and winds but also help to create a series of secondary informal gathering zones for the students outside, as they wait to attend their classes.

In order to minimise the material transported to the site, the school furniture inside the classrooms has been made from locally available hardwood and leftover elements from the main building construction process such as steel scraps from the roof, etc. This way, the economy of the building has been fully optimised by reducing waste, adding even more value to the cost of construction.

The architects explain their intentions, “Creating a sort of autonomous ‘village’ condition, the radial layout of the classroom modules has been wrapped around a central public courtyard.” This configuration not only creates privacy from the public domain, but also shelters and protects the inner courtyard from wind and dust. An amphitheater-like setting at the center of the courtyard encourages informal gatherings as well as formal assemblies and celebrations for the school and the community as a whole.

  • Conceptual sketch for seating design Image Credit: Francis Kéré
  • Seating areasImage Credit: Andrea Maretto
  • Seating areas Image Credit: Iwan Baan

Overall, the design attempts to carve a prominent role - to serve as a catalyst and a source of inspiration for the students, teaching staff and surrounding community members. The architects further describe the inputs made to create a magnet for community interaction, “Architecture, here, not only functions as a marker or landmark in the landscape of the small town, but is also a testament to how local materials, in combination with creativity and team-work, can be transformed into something significant with profound lasting effects.” The tool of design and architecture used wisely in such a way serves the community in its true sense… and is that not what the purpose of architecture should really be?

  • Exploded axonometric Image Credit: Courtesy of Kéré Architecture
  • Layout plan Image Credit: Courtesy of Kéré Architecture
  • Longitudinal section Image Credit: Courtesy of Kéré Architecture
  • Climate diagram Image Credit: Courtesy of Kéré Architecture
  • Exploded water cooling diagram Image Credit: Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Project Details:

Name of the project: Lycée Schorge Secondary School
Location: Koudougou, Burkina Faso
Client: Stern Stewart Institute & Friends
Built area: 1660 sqm
Year of completion: Completed 2016
Architect: Kéré Architecture, Diébédo Francis Kéré
Design team: Jin-Gul David Jun, Pedro Montero Gosalbez, Dominique Mayer, Diego Sologuren Martin, Marta Migliorini, Jaime Herraiz, Adriana Arteaga
Construction management and supervision: Association Dolai, Francis Kére, Marta Migliorini, Nataniel Sawadogo, Wéneyida Kéré

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