SCHOOL - EKUMFI, GH - PRO BRONO
Bee Architects was planning for some time to volunteer to build humanitarian architecture in developing countries; when Impact NextGen made an appeal, we all joined forces to design this project for the Ekumfi community in the Central Region of Ghana (as well as a school for the Kalivio Gugoro community in the Kasena West District, see our Projects)
We wanted a dynamic layout that leaves room for creativity and self-management of the space. “Funnels” (a term that symbolizes the connection between us and nature) and “Underbrush” (a term that symbolizes the future as the small plants become big trees one day) were the foundation of our design. Sustainability, circular design, eco-friendliness and affordability were some of the key principles that stood at the basis of this project and guided us from the very beginning. The impact of the design on people and the community was also paramount.
We incorporated tall funnels that collect water from the sky and give it back to the landscaped gardens and pupils from the school. Children themselves are the underbrush growing protected by trees, which can be seen in the design. This is a very dynamic and joyful concept which was architecturally translated in a wooden structure with columns and inverted pyramids with the tip down. All of the walls are mobile panels that leave space for ad-hoc rearrangements. The panel structure can be made from wood or twigs, rattan or Kente textile curtains. They are easily built and the process can be achieved in multiple stages if needed. If the community is involved, with the right support all the elements can be assembled by them, as the process itself is repetitive. The slab can be easily made from rammed earth or laterite bricks, which is cheaper and has a far smaller carbon footprint.
The modules that form this assembly have simple shapes. The upside-down pyramids suspended on top of a wooden trunks have two main purposes: to collect rainwater and reduce the roof’s excessive heating by folding its plane. When all the modules are connected together, you get the feeling of being in a forest. Trees with big crowns protect them from the scorching sun, offering shadow and unveiling a central “meadow”. An atrium that is meant to be tidy and large enough to gather pupils into not only a safe but also an elaborate environment. These tall “trees” are overhanging shading the perimeter, cooling the area and allowing a free airflow that helps the natural ventilation.
This project allowed us to leverage our know-how in off-grid projects (see the off-grid Tarcau house) to create sustainable, simple and effective architecture for communities in Ghana.