When we arrived in Uganda, the EMI team was only aware that we were being asked to design a primary school and master plan for the organization Youth With a Mission. A few of us were nervous that five architects were going to have to collaborate on the design of one school and actually agree upon a design in one week. However, as always, God was a step ahead.
On day one we had a programming meeting with the YWAM directors. They were extremely excited for the design of the primary school, but added that they had dreams of a "hospitality center" as well. They didn't seem confident that we would have time to do both projects, and they were aware that it was kind of throwing us for a loop...but they explained their visions anyway:
In the past, YWAM had been approached by different groups and organizations interested in holding events at the existing YWAM conference center, only to be turned away because there was no room [in the inn...get it?! How metaphoric...]. Further, the directors had detailed thoughts of what this hospitality center would look like...a cross-shaped structure with a common area at the intersection that had a fountain and plants...a real oasis for their guests to gather around. The hospitality center would not only be a blessing to the people interested in using their conference center, but it would also be a huge financial blessing to the YWAM ministry. If they were able to charge fees for groups holding conferences, retreats, or on vacation, they would be able to better support the construction of the primary school, and possibly even cover school fees for the kids.
The idea for a primary school came about as a request from parents. YWAM currently has a daycare on their site with almost 150 children in attendance. The children receive a solid Christian education that they would not otherwise get. After daycare, however, there is no Christian primary school for the kids. The education received at a government school in Uganda is basically useless, if not harmful with false teachings, and private schools are expensive. Therefore, there was no question that a school must be built!
With two projects on the table now, we were perfect in numbers. Split into two teams, we got busy with the designs.
This is Rose, who currently runs the YWAM Hopeland Pre-School
We interviewed Rose and some of the YWAM staff to understand what their needs are, how classes are taught in Uganda, and what they hope to see in the primary school
We also walked the site to understand where the school is going to be built. The property is adjacent to a sugarcane farm - you can see in the the photo above we're standing on the property line, grass on one side and remnants of harvested sugarcane on the other.
Master Plan of the School and Hospitality Center
Plan and Section of two classrooms
The proposed primary school consists of the above plan duplicated four times. Each of the four sets will have two classrooms with a descended courtyard in between. The design of the school lends itself well to indoor-outdoor living, as the Ugandans love to do. With this design, it is easy for teachers to open the wall of doors and spill outside. The courtyard steps down so that kids can sit along the edge while the teacher talks. A solid wall along the exterior of the site is incorporated for security, while the opposite side opens towards the campus and the covered walkway that connects all 8 classrooms.
Rendering of the Primary School
Aerial view of the Hospitality Center
The cross-shape does have a major inherent problem in that no matter the orientation there will always be at least two wings with poor sun exposure. To mitigate this, our design uses loggias on the west sides to block the hot, setting sun. At night, therefore, when most time is spent in the bedroom, it will be as cool as possible. We also recommended locations for trees to be planted, which will work perfectly because any seed dropped on the ground will grow a tree in Uganda.
The long, narrow wings were extremely helpful for cross-ventilation. Without a double-loaded corridor, it is possible for air to flow in one side of the room and out the other. It also means that the toilets can have exterior access (necessary in Uganda for plumbing and ventilation), but not open out onto the walkway.
Cross-section of the bedrooms. On the bottom is a typical dormitory-style, single-loaded corridor. On the top is a two-person room section that explains how the roof allows for ventilation in the circumstances where it is not a single-loaded corridor.
two different dormitory furniture layouts
The two-person room with two twins or a double bed
The suite-style room opening out onto an end terrace.
The overall floorplan
These local cast-concrete blocks are used in several of the YWAM buildings, so we were excited to incorporate them in our design as they are an affordable way to add beauty.
Rendering of the Hospitality Center's central atrium. The red handrails are intended to be built out of the cast-concrete blocks.
Dr. Tim, the director of YWAM Hopeland, had a distinct vision of what the central courtyard space would look like. He wants a fountain in the center that has a large set of sculpted hands above, meant to symbolize God, with water pouring out over smaller hands in prayer position. He imagined an opening in the roof to allow rain to come down into the fountain, although we agreed with his wife that it wasn't quite practical to have a hole in the roof. We compromised by suggesting they build the framework for a roof over a small hole in the center, which could be tiled if the rain turns out to be a problem, but looks pretty cool if it's not.
After 7 days of designing, Michael ironed a sheet out on the wall, and we presented to the YWAM staff.
The YWAM staff watching and listening and sleeping
And their reaction was wonderful! The YWAM director of Uganda, Uncle Leo (front and center in the picture above), told a story about sitting in the same exact spot (which was a funny coincidence since we were supposed to hold the presentation in a different building) several years before, dreaming up the YWAM Hopeland site. The ground was only concrete and none of the windows or the blue wall in the back were in existence. It really made us all believe that it wouldn't be long until this school and hospitality center were a reality, because as he said, "With a vision, comes a provision". And God will provide!
the cute boys that might go to our school someday!