A new school in rural Cambodia, designed and built pro-bono by Weston Williamson + Partners officially opens on June 1, International Children’s Day.
WW+P worked with Engenuiti, Integration and Building Trust International to design a building which was flexible and adaptable to meet current and future needs. It comprises three additional classrooms, a library and a covered external classroom with a sunken play area, which doubles as a small amphitheatre.
Until now the school in Khyaung village, 40km north east of Phnom Penh City, has catered for 359 pupils aged 3-17 in two old buildings. The lack of accommodation has meant that children travelling from six surrounding villages to this, the area’s only school catering for children up to secondary age, had to attend in shifts, part-time.
From February to April this year, a team of designers from WW+P’s London studio led by architect Abul Mahdi, assisted the local farming community with the construction on a two week rotation. The team was also there to maintain design quality and to ensure that the highest possible site safety and welfare principles were adhered to. Building Trust held workshops on sustainable building techniques for the local workforce and volunteers.
WW+P’s innovative, cost-effective and low maintenance design maximises the use of external and internal spaces, incorporating traditional verandas to enable teaching and play in small groups.
The classrooms open onto the central school yard area, whilst cross ventilation is maximised by the use of high level openings and air bricks on opposite walls.
The cross section and orientation of the school building responds to the local environmental conditions of the site, with the distinctive ‘top hat’ zinc roof form incorporating overhanging verandas which provide solar shading to the classroom walls to prevent overheating. These external covered spaces also provide a shaded area for smaller informal classes.
The library opens onto the adjoining external covered space, which is central to the plan and offers a shaded and flexible space, providing a stimulating environment for learning and play. It also provides a community meeting space outside of school hours.
Locally available materials have been used throughout, and the setting-out of the building has a direct relationship to the distinctive brick module of the region. The detailing and arrangement of the brick walls has been carefully considered to maximise cross ventilation while also providing variety and interest. The rhythm of the brick detailing to the library differs to that of the classrooms so as to distinguish it as being of special importance to the school.
Says Senior Partner Philip Breese:
“The school was designed in close collaboration with the local community and Building Trust International. It’s only the start of what we hope will be an on-going exchange of skills and ideas with our friends in Khyaung Village.”