Our project proposes a sanctuary for learning. To create a safe space for girls to grow and flourish, our scheme had to be adaptable to both the formal classroom setting as well as the informal spaces, both interior and exterior, where Kurandza can offer its supports. Our spaces are orientated towards a central courtyard to provide privacy and a sense of enclosure. Through deliberate positioning of the buildings, outdoor play and learning spaces are provided with a clear separation between the public realm and the protected school environment. The Canhueiro tree acts as a natural separator at the northern end of the courtyard, with seating provided underneath its shady canopy. Childcare is integrated at the southern entrance, with its proximity to security and the kitchen, ensuring the women are given sufficient space away from their children to focus on their studies.
Resilience of both structure and scheme was a key consideration in our design process. Mozambique’s affliction by natural disasters looks set to increase with climate change, therefore it was important to us that the building could adapt to these challenges. We researched historic precedents such as the Limpopo river flood of 2000, and elevated our building using a plinth above the one metre high flood levels experienced in the area. This plinth gave us room to place a water storage and integrated cooling system within it, which is fed by the roof’s unique and dynamic curves. This offers an alternative supply of water, which can be used for toilets, irrigation or purified in an emergency. These measures allow the centre to become a refuge for the wider community in times of crisis. An earthbag foundation, tension reinforced roof structure and fired clay bricks provide structural stability during earthquakes, cyclones or floods.
Our first step into designing the Kurandza school was to simply observe the plot in relation to the nearby traffic. We created a feeling of openness by aligning the initial shape of the building to the street, where all the students would enter from. Next was to adapt the shape to the local weather conditions. As the strongest winds come from the South-East, the corner facing them had to take a rounder, more aerodynamic form.
The cycle of the sun also played a major role in the formation of the school’s base. Preserving the existing vegetation was crucial for naturally ventilating the area. We cut out areas from the foundation surrounding the trees and turned them into spots for rest, eating and games. The U-shaped plinth we were left with was divided by the main axes of movement into buildings with different functions.
The best way to deal with the strong cyclone winds typical for Mozambique is to let the wind flow through rather than retaining the currents. A porous structure does that best. The patios are shaded by the roof overhang of the buildings and make for a comfortable way to explore and enjoy the school grounds.
It was important that the solutions we designed, could be easily constructed by local contractors, utilise readily available materials in the area and provide good value for money for Kurandza. To achieve this we looked at the vernacular construction techniques of the region and decided on utilising ferrocement concrete (chicken-wire reinforcement, with minimal cement), fired clay bricks, corrugated steel and wooden trusses.
Passive techniques for cooling include; placing buildings in close proximity to each other and overhangs to provide shade, underground ventilation and cross ventilation from the courtyard and canvas insulated roofs. We retained as many trees as possible for their cooling and calming effects.
Stefanie Hünitzsch, Mathilda Niebel, Thomas Blachut, Radostina Hristova, Daniel O’Reilly