A ring-shaped school by Architect Francis Kéré grounds its site in the outskirts of Burkina Faso’s third largest city, Koudougou. Following a ring-like arrangement, the architect used this school to yet again illustrate that vernacular architecture can be very contemporary, with sufficient use of local materials and labor.
The building features wind-catching towers planted on top of the classrooms to enable air flow in out of the classes. With a mix of wood, brick, and steel, the building appears to seamlessly fit into its surroundings. Coupled with the visually compelling envelope, the laterite stone walls house the spaces that are designed to accommodate classrooms and administrative facilities. A dental clinic for students and the community is also part of the brief.
Initially cut into bricks and left exposed to the atmosphere to harden, the laterite stone was harvested locally from earth. After hardening, the material develops strong thermal capabilities which enhance its functionality as a wall system. Coupled with the wind-catching towers and roof overhangs, the architect ensured the interior spaces would be cooled naturally.
Additionally, the undulating ceiling structure with a wavy pattern enables illumination and further ventilation of the spaces. The ceiling is painted white to enable diffusion of light in the spaces that guarantees well distributed day lighting.
Wooden screens have been utilized to form a transparent fabric system that wraps around the classes to enclose immediate informal gathering spaces outside the classrooms, free of dust and disruptive winds. Additionally, the shade the immediate classrooms from direct sunlight reducing heat gain.
Local hardwoods and leftovers from steel and the wood screens were utilized to build the schools’ furniture reducing waste and adding value to the cost of construction.
The creation of an amphitheater-like condition at the centre of the ring-shaped school builds on the concept of the public courtyard. The architect designed it as an inward-looking courtyard to protect it from wind and dust, and essentially have a meeting space removed from the public domain for privacy reasons. The school and indeed the community at large will use this space for meetings and assemblies.
Overall, one of the most important goals of the design is to serve as a catalyst for inspiration for the students, teaching staff, and surrounding community members. The architecture not only functions as a marker in the landscape, it is also a testament to how local materials, in combination with creativity and team-work, can be transformed into something significant with profound lasting effects. ~ Francis Kere
Indeed the architecture is truly sustainable to the core with considerations in terms of cooling, ventilation, day lighting and materials. Architect Francis Kéré continues to inspire the architecture industry to recycle and use locally available materials. In this project, the visual and economic significance is there, as is the functional.