This week marks the start of construction on The Swawou Project with project managers Kirsty Cassels and Spencer Fretwell flying to Kenema, Sierra Leone. Following a collaborative design phase, Kirsty and Spencer will lead a team from the local community over the next three months to carry out the building work for the new school which makes use of many local materials and techniques, helping to engage the community throughout the entire process.
In Sierra Leone poverty is a key barrier to education, and for those girls that do attend school, learning conditions remain challenging with cramped, overcrowded classrooms and a lack of sanitary conditions. Educating girls is essential to the productivity, health and development of the country, empowering not only the next generation of women but also breaking the cycles of poverty in the community. The Swawou Layout Community Primary School for Girls, supported by The Swawou Foundation (UK), offers a free primary education to girls from disadvantaged homes. Once complete, the new and improved school building will enable the Foundation to further its mission and expand its outreach.
Following a site visit last November to survey the land, meet with the pupils and local community, and determine the range of locally available materials, the form of the building and choice of materials will create a comfortable and inspiring learning environment. Early design work was inspired by a strong set of climatic principles, with the key aim of minimising the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours. The classrooms are noticeably more spacious than is typical throughout Sierra Leone, and the variety of outdoor spaces create different opportunities for socialising and relaxing within a secure setting.
With a demanding budget and ambitious brief, the design uses local materials, such as brick and steel, in simple but innovative ways, using methods that can be easily applied to future projects in the area. Through integrating local materials and building methods with a higher quality of design and construction, we hope that a mutual learning experience will develop for both the Orkidstudio team and the local community.
A detailed explanation of the project can be found in a previous blog entry: