The brief called for a small school with two classrooms, two workshops, reception area, catering facilities, a computer room/library, a meeting/counselling room, a first aid and medical examination room and an office. Expansion in the future is possible and needed to be considered. Furthermore the site is to accommodate a football pitch and areas to demonstrate planting and farming methods.
The previously acquired five-acre site is located along the main red earth main road leading out of Patongo to the East. From the town it takes about twenty minutes to reach the site on foot. Patongo itself is a remote community of about 60 000, about three car hours away from the nearest trading town. Most lively hoods are based on subsistence farming in this fertile region. The climatic conditions are those of the African savannah. It can get extremely hot and precipitation can be sudden and extreme. There are frequent sharp easterly winds.
Apart from building materials that can be found locally, such as the soil, poor quality local brick, limited choice of wood and thatching grass, all construction materials need to be procured in the remote towns of Gulu or Lira. The number of local craftsmen and builders is limited. In summary our design has to be simple, robust and needs to respond to the severe climate and the limited skill base.
Our point of departure was to arrange the program around a unifying and communal space. The rooms are arranged in four single storey pavilions, which are set around a courtyard in a pinwheel fashion. With this arrangement each pavilion can potentially be extended at a later stage.
Alternatively further quads can be added at a later stage. The entire ensemble is set back from the dusty street. The entrance pavilion accommodates the reception and catering facilities. As you pass through this, the two-class room pavilion is on your left, so that it shelters the scheme from the prevailing easterly winds. The open workshops are on the right – also offering protected viewing of the playing field. Opposite, at the far end of the collegiate ensemble you have a pavilion that accommodates the computer room/library and the smaller offices.
Circulation is via an open colonnade, overlooking the communal space from all sides. This focal space is to be planted with trees offering shadow and a water feature is to provide cooling through water condensation. The single storey pavilions have all been designed to allow for cross ventilation. The narrow pavilions also ensure good levels of natural internal light. The robust and reflective galvanized metal roofs are set at a reliable angle, and have generous roof overhangs with guttering for rainwater harvesting. The roofs also have a vent at the apex, so that on calm days the stack effect will help ventilation. The structure spanning each pavilion will be made up of timber girders at 2.7meter centres. These make efficient use of timber.
Walls and footings are to be built with stabilized soil blocks. This is a tried and tested construction method used in many developing countries, but new to this region. The idea is to use sifted moist soil excavated on site. This is mixed with about six percent cement and using a manual press it is squeezed under high pressure into perfect blocks. The rubble sifted from the soil can be used as aggregate for the concrete floor slab and the excavation holes can be incorporated into the scheme, either as latrine pits, or holes for underground rainwater storage.
In our scheme we have opted for a flat fronted block, to be laid with mortar. Whilst there are alternative interlocking blocks, which cut down on the amount of cement required, we concluded that interlocking blocks were useless when it came to dealing with corners and window reveals. The appearance of these red blocks is acceptable and provided they are neatly laid, the walls require no further rendering.
The floor slabs in the actual rooms are to be cast in a thin concrete slab. The combination of stabilized soil block walls and concrete floors will give the pavilions a good thermal storage capacity, which will reduce the amplitude between afternoon heat and early morning cold and create a thermally stable and pleasant environment.
The toilets are set away from and behind the main project. As there is no sewerage system most toilets are dug latrines. With the right amount of training and active maintenance it would be possible to operate a composting system. This would be more hygienic, sustainable and ultimately make use of the solid wastes for composting.
This institution should be open and encourage young people into taking up higher education. The entrance building with reception- shop selling products made by students and the adjacent catering area, make it easy to cross the threshold. With regards to security our strategy has been to provide rooms that can be completely secured and to allow open access to all other parts of the campus. With this openness it is also possible to easily rent out the entire school for conventions, meetings etc. and this flexibility opens up other potential income streams.
In summary we want this ensemble of buildings to offer a secure, serene and peaceful place that helps to define and create a community. A community that offers cooperation, ideas, hope and support.