Location: Benga, Malawi
Publication: African School Project – The Book
Recognition: African School Project Competition – Finalist
Benga Secondary School
Extending out from the entrance core are three distinct areas. Pairs of classrooms to the west surround the book, seed and tool library. To the north, the student living spaces radiate out from a central learning garden while dividing the male and female dorms. The learning garden cascades down from the multipurpose food hall terrace to the barn and livestock enclosures to the north. Mixing agricultural and residential programs in this area infuses agricultural learning into the daily lives of the students. Staff residences to the south are separated by a row of classrooms and trees to provide increased privacy. Building relationships throughout the site create a variety of exterior environments for both structured and unstructured learning, while artwork panels on the building facades allows for curated student work to enhance the experience of the school.
Solar panels on the library roof are in close proximity to the main power draws, the specialized classrooms and kitchen. Water is collected from the dormitory roofs by gravity and fed to a central underground tank where it can be accessed for the garden. A pump at the raised water tanks above the kitchen can replenish the tanks from either the underground garden tank or in emergencies from the bore hole at the entrance. The planting of trees throughout the site and garden provide micro-climates suitable for humans and agriculture. These micro-climates assist in: maintaining soil moisture; reducing water and nutrient run-off; and shade sensitive crops. Sludge from food waste and the latrines is collected and either used as compost fertilizer for the gardens or in the anaerobic digester, providing fuel for the kitchen and nutrients for the garden.
The buildings are oriented east-west to maximize wind movement through the site on hot summer days. Windows, doors and wall fins are designed to act as wind scoops to capture the dominant east winds. Pitched roofs and clerestory windows allow for stack ventilation. All the windows and doors are operable and locked from the inside only, providing security while maintaining egress in the case of fire. Large overhangs and operable louvered windows allow for the control of natural lighting and minimize glare within the classrooms. The design and construction of the buildings demonstrates the potential of using simple construction details and traditional and contemporary materials while creating a consistent and functional aesthetic.