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Afrocentric School_Tanzania

Part 2 Project 2010
Katharine Mccloat
University of Portsmouth, UK
This thesis explores the potential of Architecture as a Third Teacher. Set in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, this primary school demonstrates how sustainable decisions can permeate everyday life, influencing the habits and lifestyle choices of future generations.

The scheme encourages a symbiotic relationship with nature: teaching children to observe nature and climate; understand the implications of seasonal changes; and apply their learning in practical ways. Within the context of a developing country the architecture addresses issues of water supply, energy provision, and passive thermal comfort; with a combination of fixed and adaptable solutions.

1. Adaptable learning environments_
Woven canopies provide varying degrees of solar shading in support of a range of activities. Shelter from monsoon rains and rainwater collection are achieved when children turn the brightly coloured mechanisms to extend the waterproof screens. Water levels can be seen to drop as they use the large playful taps for hand washing and gardening. Daylighting levels and ventilation are adapted with interactive bamboo screens.

2. Sustaining cultures_
Fractal geometries have been used in the design of settlements of indigenous cultures throughout Africa as a tool for organisation of social hierarchy, and social sequencing of spaces. I established comparisons between primary education and the scaling principles of fractal hierarchies. The design utilises fractal sequencing of spaces to enhance the differing requirements for formal and informal learning, and play.

3. Appropriate Innovative Materials_
To challenge the preconceptions of traditional materials and encourage affordable sustainable alternatives I proposed a hybrid of new and old technologies. Coconut concrete walls provide high thermal mass and high density for thermal and acoustic control, whilst bamboo facilitates ventilative cooling.

Adaptable learning environments are key to supporting the education of sustainable living because they encourage children to make the decisions that affect the collection and use of available resources, observing direct responses from the systems that they use. Lessons in sustainability are evident in the language of the architecture and application of materials; using honest detailing to make learning accessible and legible to young eyes. Sustainable education must ‘educate for sustainable development’, to have substantial impact on the wider community.

Katharine Mccloat

The Diploma 2 Thesis undertaken by Katharine during the 09/10 academic session was from the outset a well coordinated and highly motivated research investigation, underpinned by a comprehensive Thesis proposition. The proposition engaged Katharine in the holistic design of a sustainable primary school set in the challenging climate of Tanzania within the context of specific location and culture. The design intensity of the outcome reflected the rigorous research approach taken.

The acquisition of the initial brief and its primary objectives were carefully considered and well related to the requirement for research. The architectural Practice HOK where involved in a real briefing process and the finalised school brief and site where based upon existing office project information.

Katharine fully engaged with the demands of climate and culture in pursuit of a passive and interactive school envelope that would teach the children about specific aspects of sustainability through involvement with the curriculum and by occupation of the buildings. Sensitive use of local materials combined with an informed approach to the demands of the existing environment where synthesised with a knowledge of cultural precedents into an entirely appropriate modern typology for sustainable school design in this region. The notion that it may be possible to provide an interactive passive sustainable architecture was rigorously addressed and fully tested. The research into every aspect of the creation of an appropriate architecture of the senses was carefully recorded and presented, and distinct.

The final presentation was beautifully conceived and executed, providing a clear and concise documentation of the total investigation. The overall resolution of the school was underpinned with precise detail, enabling the assessors to evaluate the work at a glance or to probe at great depth and feel satisfied with the resolution of the objectives set.

The ambition of form, composition and sensitivity was fully resolved and integrated with sustainable objectives and context, and was well related to precedents. The work was recognised by the examiners as distinct, and was also considered worthy of a special prize awarded by RIBA Southern Region.


Ms Mary Weguelin
Mr David Yearley
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