Lay out , it’s getting there !

The Swazi design team has been busy for quite a bit :  brainstorming slash idea swapping slash doodle digging. Finally the trade school is coming together !

So today, let me introduce to you the two layout options we came up with for the school .

Lay out Option 1

The derivation of these two options has been a humbling experience. As builders/designers/architects ; first and foremost we wanted to make sure we didn’t super-impose our notion of learning environment or school in an African rural context.

Lay out Option 2

Rather the core of our idea was focused on recognizing the limitation of resources (such as funding, material etc) and the challenges of social , cultural and climatic conditions. So the result is a simple, easy to build modular lay-out around courtyards and fruit orchards – that could be easily reproduced by the locals as and when they need in future. And by themselves.

Let us know what you think – we’re up for all !






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Site plan development

Our team came up with a concept that incorporates many of the ideas discussed up until now. It is a continuous S shaped roof creating two courtyards, with gaps between the buildings for circulation and activity spaces.


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Here’s a sketch from our meeting last week. It shows a section on top, elevation (perpendicular to the section) at the bottom, and the plan detail of the exterior wall relevant to that elevation.
The main concept is to separate structure from building envelope (columns that hold the roof from weather proofed surfaces). Previous construction in El Shaddai employed concrete masonry unit walls that acted both as structure and as an envelope. By separating the two functions we can reduce the amount of material used, employ local construction techniques (here we show a local woven material, for example the way Swazis build huts, on both sides of a light wooden frame for the envelope), and allow for easy repair or removal of wall sections. Our 3X3 meter grid of concrete columns will give the locals a durable structure they can enclose in ways they see fit. We keep joking it’s like Lego – you can take parts from one place and move them to a different locations. We want to give the Swazis a basic Lego kit.

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Conceptual design – Michelle

The team is now meeting every week to push the design forward. Check out some concepts Michelle Senayah brought to the table. Click on the images for a larger view.


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Meeting the masons

Last week we had our first meeting with the masons who will be travelling to Swaziland to build the school: Dave and Mike from Red Robin Masonry.

We had a great conversation, mainly coordinating our expectations and understanding how the constructions could be done simply and in a cost effective manner.

Some of our topics of discussion:

– construction techniques: masonry retaining walls vs. masonry foundations with post and beam construction (with woven material infill for walls).

– design details: things like gaps between concrete blocks or other forms of play could make a nicer building but would cost more time – they would only be on site for two weeks, so we have to figure out what is most important for the design and focus on that.

– finance: we discussed various ways to raise more funds for the project, including crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo or Kickstarter. We could collaborate between Lifecorps, Red Robin Masonry, and Architecture for Humanity: Toronto Chapter to create an effective fund raising campaign.


Our team is now meeting every week to get the initial design going as soon as possible. More updates to come soon!

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School Questions and Answers

The beauty about designing a trade school in Swaziland from Canada in 2012 is that we can communicate with the existing school online. Our team would like to ask the local children for input on their current conditions and how they would like their new school to be.

For that purpose, Sharmin made a special QnA page to be printed over there, filled, and mailed back to us.

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Traditional Swazi Construction Techniques

We’ve got a few images showing how the Swazis build

Traditional homestead organization

Detail of the traditional Beehive style method

Contemporary composite: Sotho Style

Contemporary composite: Swazi Style

Check out more images in our gallery page

Image Courtesy
Cover –
Page 3 -
Page 4- Ariadne Van Zandbergen
Page 5 –
Page 7 & 8 –

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