School in Ghana
School in Ghana – Description of Alberto Figueroa.
“School in Ghana” is the result of an international competition: the “4th Earth Architecture Competition” hosted by “NKA Foundation”. The end goal was to develop a prototype of a single classroom that will become part of high school campus in Abetenim, in the Ashanti Region, Ghana.
The goal of this project was to create a building using local materials and construction techniques, engaging local workers to be part of the project and helping the local economy overall. The project also used international volunteers, most of whom were architectural students and graduates, giving them experience in sustainable construction systems such as “rammed earth”.
The project was redesigned on site so the it would adapt to the site and create a connection with the local culture. Therefore, the building consists of a classroom and a lobby space that provides storage and study/reading space for their students.
The orientation and geometry of the building were chosen to minimize the exposure to direct sunlight, maximize indirect sunlight and eliminate the need for artificial lighting and its associated costs. The shape of the roof has a dual function, first, to collect rain water to be reused for future washrooms and, second, to provide the best sound acoustics.
Two construction techniques were used in this project. At the bottom, rammed earth. This system allows the use of local materials, such as clay earth that, once mixed with cement and the right proportion of water, creates a wall with a mechanical resistance similar to concrete. On the top, a wooden structure composed of posts and beams that, in combination with small pieces of painted wood, allows for cross ventilation, indirect sunlight and a visual connection with the surroundings.
The color and geometry of the building façade are designed with reference to the local fabric called Kente. Kente is considered a visual representation of the history and culture of Ghana. This fabric is manually woven and is reserved for special occasions such as weddings, funerals or conferences. The combination of colors and patterns becomes a language that conveys a message that can range between a feeling, such as love or admiration, to representing a title (For example, there is a Kente designed for Barack Obama that only he can wear).
The project is documented in video format to help future project directors, NGOs and volunteers learn the construction process, observe the decisions we made and to educate those students that couldn´t take part in this project.