On a visit to Mankgaile, a rural village outside Polokwane, to supply the school with computers, members of PetroSA were so moved by the appalling conditions that they decided to make this a pilot project and build a new school for the community. (The school has now been transferred to the Department of Education who will run it.) The school committee and parents played a significant role in preparing the brief and engaging with the professional team throughout the duration of the project ensuring that the building met their requirements and was an asset to the community.
The site is on a commanding position overlooking the village. “Being the most important building in the village and as it will be used as the village community centre, place of gathering and functions and sporting events it was felt that the building needed to have a presence and a stature for the community. A formal and symmetrical arrangement was felt to be most appropriate to reinforce this aspect,” says Stefan Antoni, Project Partner.
The school is arranged along a rear spine acting virtually as a street connecting the centre public square or Forum and the two outer classroom courtyards. The main entrance is through gates on the Southern end of the spine. Being double volume in height with portions permitting filtered light it provides for a certain air of drama. The Forum forms the centre and heart of the school and opens onto the grand veranda and covered loggia walkway overlooking the sports field. The colonnade is made up of steel posts with a pergola of latte providing shade in the afternoons and together with the filtered light forms a very light and permeable layer to the heavier and solid building behind. Toilets are positioned to allow for easy access for school or non-school events.
On either side of the Forum Team Teaching spaces are provided which can open directly into the Forum or the Classroom courtyards on either side. 9 classrooms on two levels are arranged around each courtyard. These courtyards will be planted with trees in due course and together with the designed outdoor furniture will act as additional classrooms in good weather.
All the Administration and support functions are arranged to the rear of the spine. These include Reception and the Principals office (off the arrival gate), Head of Department, Staff Room overlooking the Forum, Bookstore and the Computer and Science rooms where security can be controlled. The Kitchen has been situated on the North side so that the children can play and enjoy their meals in the garden.
The main material for the school is a maintenance free face brick almost identical in colour to that of the earth. “Accents are achieved using plaster - in many places painted quite a dark mud colour and others hand carved. Steel is kept minimal, light and white and adds a delicate touch to what is essentially quite a large building,” says partner Greg Truen. The detailing was kept uncomplicated. The school was built largely by members of the community to an impressively high standard.