The Eco-Active School was commissioned by a large mining company to ensure the economic viability and educational advancement of a small town reliant on non-sustainable platinum resources to be depleted in an estimated 40 years.
In keeping with its social responsibility agenda, the mining house believes it can play a role in ensuring that the area develops its own economy and job opportunities to face this eventuality. The school will form an important centre of excellence in a province with a severe backlog of schools. While the school strives to offer an excellent standard of academic and vocational learning to the children of parents employed on the mines, it will also embrace the surrounding unspoiled nature. The building extends into the grassland environment (an existing game farm owned by the mine) and uses it as a teaching resource.
This layout is handled as a form of ‘rural urbanism’ in which the landscape is graded from formal to natural through a series of spaces defined by buildings and routes. A north-south community spine has been developed as a giant veranda or super porch - domestic in cross section and monumental in length - it mediates inside and outside, providing a shaded route that connects all major facilities in a clearly delimited ‘campus’. It serves to welcome and orientate outside visitors attending developmental programmes. The main buildings linked by the community spine form a series of formal but intimate courtyards, each landscaped to create green and shady spaces forming a naturally cooler micro-climate. The classrooms directly interface with the surrounding bush and they are arranged so that each class has a direct view into nature.
Project team: Thorsten Deckler, Anne Graupner, Bobo Motha, Gavin Armstrong
Featured in Architecture South Africa May / June 2007