Orkidstudio having previously constructed a chicken shed for Mutende Children’s Village in 2012, sought to engage in the putting up of the Mutendes’s Harold Mwenge Memory Academy. The design firm called for volunteers and ultimately ten student architects were selected to design and build a 350 square meter facility within a timeline of just seven weeks and a limited budget of only £100 per every square meter. With the leadership of Orkidstudio, the team designed and built a facility that doubled the existing study space that permitted the school to enroll a significant extra number of children from the area – the Mutende II.
Resultantly the design- a community hall capable of flexing to three classrooms, an IT suite, office and a supply room - mimics the roof pitch of an already existing L-shaped classroom at the back of the site before flowing ahead below an unevenly pitched concertinaed canopy. The cantilevered roof canopy at the end ushers visitors into the shaded space below and continues cascading to give an expression of a single foil sheet folding in as one move into the space. The structure’s form (in conjunction with the existing classroom) results in an organization that defines a courtyard at the core of the school which is made human friendly by creatively crafting informal seating that accommodates both children and adults. It becomes both a transition space towards the covered canopy and a destination.
StructureMode joined in the construction to provide innovative engineering solutions. Large reinforced concrete pads to an 800mm height above the floor were adopted in place of a concrete slab foundation (this was also facilitated by the strict construction time schedule which called for multiple tasks to be done simultaneously). The timber structure was then bolted on these pads to carry the elaborate ‘dynamic’ timber trussing and the corrugated iron sheet roofing systems above. Enclosing and dividing the spaces within the structure are fired mud-brick walls with large metal grilled doors into the classes and differently sized glazed windows positioned at different heights deviating from the uniform window and sill-height norm of elementary classrooms. Flooring is done using micro-concrete paving blocks. The truss structural system adorns the ceiling outside the classrooms while inner ceilings are done in suspended fabric cloths.
There is a challenge in naturally lighting the two inner rooms owing to their orientation which limits the number of openings to one large openable window and door. The other room utilizes the opportunity of having an extra outer façade which has eight windows thus enhancing natural lighting of the interior. Rain water harvesting is done using large gutter trays that protrude into the courtyard.
The firm engaged the children, teachers and the local community throughout the construction process constantly making changes to confirm to the school’s vision and to provide spaces that responded to the school’s daily activities and needs. Frazer Haviz, a volunteer architecture student, commented thus regarding the process of design and construction of the project after completion: ‘The chance to design and build something of social and architectural value, seeing it grow from talks to sketches to drawings and finally to a resolved building is something truly incredible. It is not every day the opportunity arises to be part of such a unique experience as this and it was an immense privilege to be a part of the Mutende Project II’.