School in Malawi

Using locally manufactured materials and shipping containers Architecture for a Change conceived a community center and primary school pre-fabricated in South Africa and delivered to site in Malawi.

Community Center in Malawi
Built in Malawi – one of the world’s least-developed and most-densely populated countries – by Architecture for a Change, the Legson Kayira Community Center & Primary School explores the possibility of the school as a covered canopy.
It offers a larger covered area that provides shade, open, well-lit and well ventilated spaces. The structure becomes very efficient in terms of material vs. covered square meterage, and becomes itself a visual icon.
Community Center in Malawi
Architecture for a change, The Legson Kayira Community Center & Primary School, Chimpamba, Malawi

Shade netting, lightweight steel, local masonry and corrugated iron form the architectural language of the building. Local masonry is used to create vertical louvers on the exterior of the classrooms to act as shading devices and structural support for the roof. The roofs have a slight fall to drain water into the gutters which feed the water tanks.

Furthermore the building includes the use of refurbished shipping containers as these are structurally sound elements that have duality of function. Firstly as a transportable element, and secondly, as a shell and anchor for a new structure.

One side of the container is removed, locally manufactured bricks and pavers will be incorporated into the structure. By utilizing locally manufactured materials, it provides the people with a sense of ownership and softens the container as a foreign contextual element. The over-all feel of the building is light yet permanent and with the outer facade adjustable, provides the user with freedom in terms of spatial layout and climatic comfort.

The addition of more containers makes the possibilities endless. The function of the building is not limited to a school, but can double as a community building or marketplace. These schools will act as beacons within the community, providing hope through learning, shelter through built infrastructure and nourishment through harvested rainwater to sustain subsistence farming initiatives.

Architecture for a change, The Legson Kayira Community Center & Primary School, Chimpamba, Malawi
Architecture for a change, The Legson Kayira Community Center & Primary School, Chimpamba, Malawi

Each classroom has open-able partition louvre walls covered with shade-netting. These side louvers can either be in a vertical or horizontal position. When in a vertical position, the space becomes more private and sheltered but still allows for cross-ventilation. The horizontal positions provide more shaded area and extends the space beyond the buildings boundaries and allows more natural light into the spaces.

A digital projector is stored in the container and mounted when needed at night. The courtyard/assembly space then becomes the seating/viewing space for movies or soccer games. The projector and laptop are powered by solar energy stored during the day.

The school was pre-manufactured in the Architecture for a Change workshop in South-Africa. The whole school structure was packed into four 6m containers and delivered to site in Malawi. This was mostly done for quality controil, availibility of materials and due to expensive material cost in Malawi. The school was then assembled in 8 weeks.

The site architect John Saaiman trained a local team on site with valuable skills and employed the local community during the construction process. The local bricks that was used have been laying on site for many year as the local community made them in hope that someone would fund a school. The main structure consist of light-weight steel framing and concrete footings. The school is completely of the grid and harvests rainwater.


The Legson Kayira Community Center & Primary School, Chimpamba, Malawi
Program : community center and primary school
Design & Build studio: Architecture for a change
Design team: Anton Bouwer, Dirk Coetser, John Saaiman
Site architect
: John Saaiman
Construction manager: Dawid Hercules Lombard
Engineer: Ashley Fransman
Collaborator/Client/Organization: Youth of Malawi
Completion : 2014

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