It is almost a confusing picture, the idea that you can enter space and only the occupants give it color, an architecture bound by its users, a captive of its occupants. You almost want to sit and smile at how the space interacts with the students, their uniforms, their quaky mannerisms and imperfect dispositions, it is a thing of beauty. The African school for excellence is a school in the middle of a contemporary meritorious metaphor and a functional riot, a combined effort of material bravado and spatial excellence, it is a composition of steel, polycarbonate and a whole lot of light.
Born from a 'non-profit organisation that aims at revolutionizing the face of modern education and, in so doing, providing greater access to world-class education to everyone,' the project was perhaps a heart to heart endeavor from Local Studio, more so as it is a young practice just taking off its training wheels and getting ready to battle with the giants.
From the Project Architects:
Local Studio was brought onto the ASE project after a construction firm had won the contract to provide a turn-key service, that is to act as architect and contractor in one. This firm had done a feasibility study that showed that by combining a 30-classroom school, administration block and multipurpose hall in a single 5000m2 structure, one could save almost 50% of the cost of a traditional school. The firms initial design proposals were rejected by ASE and Local Studio were hired as design architects on the project.
We were immediately excited by the idea that a school could borrow from industrial warehouse typologies in the East Rand, and with the notion of ‘school as megastructure’ in mind, we designed the building as a series of 6 U-shaped classroom clusters arranged around a vast central hall space. Each of these classroom clusters (termed ‘learning communities’) are designed around the ASE education model which is designed to rotate learners between spaces for instructional learning, peer-based learning and self-study throughout a school day (which starts at 07:00 and ends at 16:30.)
The 2000m2 hall space is imagined as a large courtyard, with a light-weight sculptural roof, floating above the classroom buildings. The main urban intervention in the building , is the extrusion of the building’s east elevation outwards to create a triple-volume entrance portico designed to welcome the public into the building. This portico, along with the building’s faceted roof is visible from far away in Tsakane.
As with our Hillbrow project, the choice of white chromadek steel and clear polycarbonate (although this time all in an IBR profile) as the primary cladding material was governed by the need to create a clear contrast with the buildings context, and to abstract the building form.