School in Sierra Leone / Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners reveals designs for Sierra Leone school

Foster + Partners unveiled a model for the design of a school in Sierra Leone. Working together with Article 25, Save the Children and Buro Happold, this unique project to establish a design prototype was the result of close collaboration with the local community to create a series of highly flexible buildings with larger classrooms, effective ventilation and natural light.

The design drew parallels with a number of early social projects. Its modular system embraced floor, walls and roof on a flexible plan and could be easily assembled and reconfigured to meet the different demands of communities in Sierra Leone. The response to climatic and economic restraints had produced something close to a new vernacular: an ‘architecture without architects’. Visually, the scheme resonated with existing schools, yet functionally it was a dramatic departure. This ensured widespread acceptance of the design, enabling teachers – for the first time – to circulate in classrooms that were light and naturally ventilated and offered better security and supervision.

The design was being jointly funded by Foster + Partners, Article 25 and Buro Happold and construction was financed by the Foster family.

© Narinder Sagoo – Foster + Partners.

Norman Foster said:

“The project to design a school for Sierra Leone was both an exciting design challenge, as well as an ambitious undertaking to help improve education in one of the world’s poorest countries. Our approach sought to achieve the most with the least, using indigenous techniques and materials to create a prototype for a modern, flexible school building that was uplifting and inspiring to use.”

  • Article 25 is a construction charity working in International Development.
  • The school could be easily assembled using locally sourced bush-sticks, standard-sized timber planks and generic modules of sheet metal for the roof.
  • Louvered apertures in the walls admitted natural light and reduce contrast with the daylight outside.
  • The pitch of the roof was at an angle of 30 degrees to minimise solar gain and encourage cross-ventilation. The ‘top hat’ of an additional roof increased air flow through the spaces and added more natural light.
  • The roof could be extended to create a generous overhang at either end of the building, creating shaded external areas for informal teaching or play.
© Narinder Sagoo – Foster + Partners.

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