• Architecture for classroom education and beyond


    EDUCATION goes beyond the classroom. Apart from the teachers and the school staff, there is another essential contributor to learning that is sometimes taken for granted: the architecture of buildings and classrooms. Good architecture is aesthetically pleasing and has good scale, proportion, rhythm, variety, and unity.

    The integration of multiple buildings can influence social interaction and cohesion among the different departments and the other community members of the campus. There is more learning in healthy interactions, than assigning departments in isolation. It is in public discussions that culture for learning and curiosity thrives, that is why there is a need to plan the campus in a manner that is conducive for these kinds of activities.

    There are other factors that affect the learning of the students, such as proper air ventilation and air quality, adequate lighting, and aesthetic influence. But with the schools that are located in remote areas, where road access is difficult, schools should also be self-sufficient. There should be light even though on-grid power fluctuates. There should be adequate water for gardening and for bathroom use even though institutional water sources are scarce. It should withstand Category 4 typhoons even though it is built with minimal cost.
    Master plan for campuses: Four schools and a hospital in Kathmandu
    On April 2015, the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, was devastated by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake. It killed thousands of people and toppled thousands of homes and buildings. Through the kindness of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Palafox Architecture Group and Palafox Associates were invited to contribute in the rebuilding of Kathmandu, one of the oldest cities in the world. Of the numerous tasks that the foundation, along with the international team of professionals who we are working with, redesigning and planning for campuses is one of the assigned priority. Much importance is given to education as a way of alleviating poverty.

    Our approach to master planning the campus and designing the schools and hospital makes use offour design approaches: Dynamic Academic Environment; Holistic Development; Integrated, interactive and highly walkable and bike-able community; and Smart Growth. In an overview, the spaces allocated are 32percent for buildable areas, and 68 percent for non-buildable and open spaces.

    First, open spaces like fields, vegetable gardens, and parks, are important for recreational activities, disaster preparedness and pedestrianization. They function as huge playgrounds and activity areas that serve both academic and leisure activities. They also serve as an evacuation area that can accommodate every member of the campus community. With this in mind, it is important to make sure that vehicles do not clog and dominate the streets of the school. Moreover, a car-oriented setting discourages the community members to walk and interact with the other places of the campus.

    Second, integration of buildings through pedestrian bridges and wider sidewalks is important for a dynamic academic environment. It should be easily accessible to students, and most especially to school administrators and teachers, in case they need to address issues immediately in other parts of the campus.

    Lastly, we envision a holistic development and smart growth. It is part of the plan that the architecture of the buildings should reflect Nepalese architecture in order to preserve a sense of culture and history. There should also be a strong sense of place from the point of arrival to the exit. Most importantly, the schools will be inclusive, welcoming students from across income classes; and interfaith, since it will also be open for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and other faiths or religions.

    Casiguran, school for indigenous community
    While Architecture for Humanity may be practiced anywhere in the world, it is also important for us to be able to help our fellow Filipinos using international standards, lessons learned, and best practices in architecture, planning, design, and engineering. Our firms are also currently designing a school for an indigenous community in Casiguran, Aurora, which was hit by Typhoon Lando (Koppu) last October 2015.

    The materials that will be used for the school will be sourced locally or within the nearby cities. But structurally, the materials for the foundations (i.e. hard wood) will be coming from the vicinity of the school. On the other hand, the roofing is placed at a 30 degree angle to be able to withstand wind speeds beyond 200 kilometers per hour. It is important that the school can survive numerous typhoons.

    Another important feature of the school is that rain water is recycled to provide water for the bathrooms and for gardening. Because of scarcity of water in the vicinity, this would be a big help. The windows are also strategically placed and sized so that natural lighting will not significantly increase heat inside the classrooms. It is important to note that passive cooling and natural lighting go hand in hand to control indoor humidity and air flow.

    There is more to school designs than the typical box-type. External conditions should be accounted for, since school buildings are usually the first refuge during disasters. To students affected by calamities, going back to school provides the normalcy they need during such unstable times. Having a place where students can continue their education gives hope for a better tomorrow.


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