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Shiyala Primary School

Ten years after they were originally built, the modest classroom blocks that made up the Shiyala school stood derelict. Despite a skilled local workforce in both earth-brick production and masonry work; both structures suffered from under-engineering, poor maintenance and lack of financial support. With a minimal budget, Orkidstudio has converted the existing structures into a colourful primary school.

Taking cue from the fragile foundations already in place, the roof structure is removed to relieve any unnecessary weight on the walls. A new super-structure is created around them in the form of rammed-earth-filled steel drums which are retained as a permanent formwork, both to protect from the elements and act as tensile reinforcement. Similarly, sections of the existing brick walls are incised to receive the new columns. As the drums take on a compressive role, the masonry resists shear forces without the addition of extra cross-bracing.

The new roof offers generous passive shading during Zambia’s hottest months, with an air gap between the walls and roof for increased airflow and natural lighting. Whilst a spectrum of colour across each building creates a sense of identity between rooms, smaller drums of varying heights are sunken into the Earth as seats, gathering places, and jumping platforms.

A second phase completes later this year, with an additional three classrooms framing out a central courtyard within the compound and some further landscaping work going onto the playgrounds.

Location: Chongwe, Zambia

Client: Mothers of Africa

Collaborator: StructureMode

Year: 2016-2017

Status: In Process

Size: 930 m2