At the heart of Kibera slums located in Nairobi Kenya sits a small beautiful, well laid out kindergarten school. Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, and one of the biggest in the world, is home to over 250,000 impecunious dwellers. The make-up of Kibera comprises some of the most modest dwelling spaces for any urban set-up, not to mention the capital city of one of the fastest growing economies in the region.The vision of the charity run school is to empower the community by providing a quality learning environment and affordable education to the local children.
The design proposal would have to comply with a low-budget, the building restrictions of an informal settlement and incorporate unsophisticated building technology for local craftsmen.
The Journey to Oasis Kindergarten School
This specific brief requirement is a challenge to most architects both in the local and international scene. Having exhausted a number of ‘charitable’ options, the client, determined to realise a vision of transforming the lives of destitute children, set out on a mission to design and construct Oasis Kindergarten Kibera.
From The Project Leader:
The school, which sits on slightly less than one-eighth of an acre plot, comprises 3 classrooms, a music room, reception, office, multipurpose hall, staff room, store, kitchen, guard house, septic tank, 7 toilets and a kids play ground. The directors of the school had to draft the spatial layout and ensure that all facilities required would fit in the available space without compromise.
Since permanent buildings are not permitted in some areas of the slum, we were faced with the challenge of choosing suitable yet functional semi-permanent materials. A very quick option would have been to get shipping containers and convert them into classrooms but accessibility to the site would have been impossible. After much searching and consultation we settled for IT5 also known as Industrial Trough. This is a special type of iron sheet that is tougher and lasting 4-5 times longer than normal galvanized iron sheets. It comes in assorted appealing colors and this was an added advantage considering the intended user.
The main building block houses the 3 classrooms, Office and reception on Ground floor and a multipurpose hall and staffroom on first floor. Steel frames supplemented by timber form the main structure sitting on a concrete foundation. The external walling was done using IT5 industrial trough (gauge 26) iron sheets while the roofing used gauge 30 of the same IT5 industrial trough. The brightly colored blue and green iron sheets not only provide for good functionality but also contribute towards child friendly aesthetics. Internal walling serving also as insulation was done using 9mm chipboards and finished with cream silk paint. Linking the ground and first floor is a spiral steel stair case. The floors of every room have been graced by multicolored ceramic tiles.
Kibera being a densely populated area also means that open space is almost non-existent. Most of the schools in the slum do not have open playing ground for the kids but the directors of Oasis Kindergarten were determined to include an open green space for children to play in the already limited space. They came up with a simple but practical U layout which accommodates the main building in the middle and the rest of the facilities to the left and right of the main block creating the much needed open space. On one side is the kitchen, store and music room while the other side consists of the guard house and 7 flushable toilets. There are also three 5,000-litre tanks on site to ensure sufficient supply of water.
Finally the school is crowned by green hedge landscaping and trees that each child was involved in planting thus participating in creating a true oasis.
When it comes to conceptualization, context is the foundation of architecture; a building must respond to the site elements of a specific area or location. For a design to be a success, it must strive to meet client needs and at the same time constitute an understanding of the genius loci. Whe...