Venice 2016 – Architects’ commitment to build a better future starts also from responsible school projects for the men and women of tomorrow. We selected six great stories on show at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale that bring a message of hope.
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Nigeria architect Kunlé Adeyemi of Studio Nlé won this year Silver Lion decking his A-shaped Makoko floating school at the Tese of Arsenale to host Waterfront Atlas, an exhibition about developing coastal communities. The floating school and housing prototype was originally designed for the aquatic community of the lagoon of Makoko in Lagos, Africa’s second most populous city. Here about 100,000 people live in housing units built on stilts with no roads, no land and no formal infrastructure to support day-to-day survival.
Makoko Floating School responds to the critical challenges posed by urbanization and climate change in Africa and foresee possible solutions. The project consists in a three-storey wooden structure that can be assembled by 4 men in just 10 days – as it happened in Venice..
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The Peruvian Pavilion presents the work of architects, students and native communities who teamed up to fight poverty and preserve the Amazon rainforest through education. The exhibition Our Amazon Frontier at Arsenale brought home a Special Mention by the Biennale jury.
On show, the large Plan Selva national program that allows neglected native communities living in one of the most remote corners of the world to build educational structures in rural areas of the country’s internal frontier. These structures are scalable, flexible and flood-proof prefab units that can be easily replicated and will bring education respecting the local culture and without top-down imposition of Western standards.
Cooperation and team work are on show also at the Thai pavilion. After a 6.3 Richter scale earthquake near Chiang Rai in the north of the country in 2014, non-profit organization Design4Disaster asked to nine Thai architects to help redesign and rebuild nine elementary schools in desperate need. In the end the earthquake brought together an entire community of people – young and old, amateur and professionals – to work together.
“By creating the learning spaces we aimed to enliven the atmosphere for the children who were victim of the disaster” says M.L. Verudh Varavarn at Vin Varavarn Architects. “In selected sections of the project we used natural materials to show how local resources can substitute more expensive and modern materials. All the necessary structure elements had been designed to be exposed in order to convey a sense of solidity and safeness” – Slideshow: Huay San Yao Witthaya School by Vin Varavarn Architects..
Visitors at Arsenale walk around a field of wooden pins, on the sides “suspended” models of the nine school seem to float. As people walks on sprung platforms to reach the videos and images on the walls, the installation trembles.
Chinese Pavilion at Arsenale focuses on the application of ancient Chinese wisdoms in today’s urban life. According to this theme, architect Zhu Jingxiang and his team at the Chinese University of Hong Kong developed the Dou Pavilion, a prefab building with a “checkered” playroom which has helped realize education centers for children in China’s rural areas.
Inside, the building is characterised by convex and concave squares both on the floor and the walls. Different openings on different levels and to various directions contribute to help children to conduct exploration and educators to create innovative programs.
At the Danish Pavilion (Giardini), Dorte Mandrup Arkitekten presented the Ama’r Children Cultural Home in Copenhagen. The project was delevoped starting from the precious and fanciful collaboration with kids.
The result is a L-shaped building covered in a silvery skin and with windows disposed on the walls and the roof. Inside, it is structured like a mountain to explore with ramps, niches and stairs that allow numerous spacial experiences for kids of all ages.
In Rio de Janeiro, visual artist Vik Muniz built the Escola Vidigal, a lab-centre and residence for visiting teachers. The building is at the cross between the Vidigal favela and wealthy district. “Residents of Vidigal grow up with an exposure to insatiable material desires through their interaction with their rich neighbours. And yet, the potential potential energy of the outer city is precisely the result of this friction between necessity and possibility, between desire and capital” says Vik Muniz.
Vidigal school seeks to channel these anxieties, transforming them into empowerment that is both liberating and creative. Kids can join classes where they have to be inventive and actually create things rather then using them: like videogame programming, cartoons making, furniture design workshops and mechanical and digital assemblings. “They have to understand the world as a system, a process they can be part of” and not just become inactive spectators – Video by Zuppa Filmes.
With sophisticated tools the Vidigal school seeks to channel these anxieties, transforming them into empowerment that is both liberating and creative. The architectural project is designed like a home as “only this non-hieratical continuity from the school to the home is able to restore the sense of coherence between practical life and the knowledge acquired by children”. The project is on show at the Brazilian Pavilion in Giardini.