This project won the 2013 Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award in the Architecture + Collaboration category. See the full list of winners here.
Before children from the coastal slum of Seawall, in Tacloban, the Philippines, can go to school, they need a lot of other details to fall into place. Lunch. Uniforms. Books. A break from working for their families' survival. A place to study and prepare to re-enter the classroom. When three architecture students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at Seawall's obstacles to education, they saw, yes, an architectural solution—but also a deeper community problem. Behind every absentee student loomed the influence of a parent. How could they change the culture?
Under the auspices of the nonprofit Streetlight, Ivar Tutturen, Trond Hegvold, and Alexander Furunes organized the parents of Seawall into a design committee. Between 2010 and 2012, the student-architects and the families workshopped plans for a new study center and enlisted the community's help to construct it. The building, which opened last year, serves as a way station between the streets and government schools, offering preparatory study sessions and meals to children of all ages. It's also the winner of the Popular Choice prize in the Architecture + Collaboration category of the A+ Awards!
"The aim was to use architecture as a tool to empower the parents to improve the learning conditions for their own children," write the designers. The fathers—many of whom work as day laborers in a cement factory—learned construction techniques that broadened their skill sets. The mothers, meanwhile, worked with the NTNU students to design the interiors. "The project became not only about the building of a study center, but the building of a community," add the designers.
Built from wood and concrete blocks with stone and bamboo infill (all sourced from the slum itself), the center uses vernacular construction methods. The exterior wall facing the ocean is actually made of doors, which can be opened to let breezes through and prevent collapse in high winds and typhoons.
Two more study centers are planned, and the designers hope to hold charrettes over the summer. Meanwhile, the original center continues to inspire the parents of Seawall. "Since the completion of the first study center, the mothers continued the tradition of having weekly workshops to get together and solve issues related to their children's education," writes Furunes. "The fathers that worked on the building site gained a lot of building experience that they now are using within the slum as as they have been offered more work."
Photos: courtesy of Nelson Petilla, Ronnie Ramirez, and Nerren Homeres