Atelier RZLBD has designed the Benga Secondary School, to be situated in the Nkhotakota district of Malawi. The proposal focuses on the feasibility of the project – its affordability, constructibility, and expandability – using only basic and existing resources. The intention is to pursue a humble and modest design, to make the resulting scheme achievable.
The scheme is planned by RZLBD to establish a discrete and original spatial order. Through this order, spaces are organised in such a way that places the community at the centre. The layout leads people to the central gathering point – the agora – from any part of the school. This courtyard will serve as an area for formal and informal events, extending the learning environment beyond formal classrooms.
By calculating the standard floor areas for each program, five modules based on 2.5m have been created and repeated throughout the entire plan, which allows for easy and fast construction that requires no complicated craftsmanship. The modular system, breaking down the programs to their essential components, produces a scheme that is well-scaled, allowing the project to blend in with the context.
To minimise any necessary adjustments to the landscape, the modules are arranged linearly following the planes of the topography, so that each group of the modules is on the same ground level. At the same time, to preserve all the existing trees on the site, the modules are placed in-between the trees, and their canopies either expand over or enclose them, which ties the modules and the trees into one architectural entity. In the individual module, locally available construction methods and materials have been used, while the single-sloped roof system has been designed to maximize sunlight for solar panels and natural ventilation.
On the façades, the corbeled triangular openings and screens, inspired by African fabric pattern, add a cultural identity to the project, while lightening the construction by removing the use of a lintel. To ensure the spatial quality through time, the project has been considered in its full expansion. On the fully constructed podium that sets the boundary for each program, the dormitory and the classroom modules are planned to grow inwardly, making the school more complete conceptually and spatially through the expansion.
Project name: ‘Benga Secondary School’
Project location: Benga, Nkhotakota District, Malawi
Program: Secondary school, dormitory, teachers’ residences
Client: Benga Parish
Architect: Atelier RZLBD/Reza Aliabadi
Project team: Reza Aliabadi, James Chungwon Park
Structure: Brick masonry, steel
Site area: 10700sqm
Size (ground floor area): 3425sqm
As seen on: Designboom