Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Border School (Moving School) in Mae Sot, Tak, Thailand by Eleena Jamil Architect
June 6th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Eleena Jamil Architect
The Border School is intended to provide teaching accommodation for children of migrant families in Mae Sot, Tak, Thailand, close to the border of Burma. The land on which the school is situated is leased as migrant teachers and students cannot legally own it. As such, landlords may take over the land together with any buildings on it at anytime. As such, the school is designed as a modular portable school that can be easily dismantled and re-assembled on another possible site.
Bamboo is the main construction material, chosen mainly for the availability of the material in the area. It is also lightweight, strong and flexible, making it conveniently transportable. Bamboo culms’ lengths are standardised as far as possible and the number of unique joints are minimised to ease dismantling and assembling. Joints are kept simple, employing simple pin joints and nylon string lashings. The only permanent elements are the foundation stumps which are reinforced concrete casted with cylindrical metal tubes to receive the bamboo columns.
The design has strong reference to the architecture of traditional dwellings in the area where they are largely made from natural materials such as timber, bamboo and thatch. Also like the dwellings, the whole school is raised off the ground on stilts, but only by about 600mm, with split bamboo as the main flooring material.
Touching the ground lightly means that it is less destructive to the land that it sits on and it will be easier to dismantle and move. Further to that, raising the floor off the ground means that air will circulate above and below the floor, keeping spaces cool and the floor dry and hygienic. The raised deck is also useful when the school is situated in low lying areas where seasonal flooding occurs.
Spatially, the school can be described as a series of teaching areas connected by a large and raised bamboo deck which also contains the reception and canteen. To this deck is connected a series of modular classroom structures arranged around it. The deck is a tall, airy and sheltered space.
It is the heart of the school and will become the place for meeting, playing, eating and informal teaching for teachers and children. The roof structure is split into small sloping sections with openings in between to allow hot air to escape at the top. An opening in the floor near the centre of the deck accommodates an informal performance/teaching space with long bamboo steps as seating.
There are seven smaller identical structures connected to the main deck by small bamboo bridges. Out of the seven, six are classrooms and one is used as an administration office. The repetitive design of the smaller structures minimises the number of unique building elements and enhances portability. Like the deck, the smaller structures have large sloping roofs which split into two creating a high-level clerestorey opening. The walls will be panels woven out of bamboo or thick screwpine leaves.
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