Meetse a Bophelo Primary School
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The idea to create an environment that facilitates teaching and learning takes on a different attempt and approach as compared to the conventional school typology of South Africa. Prefabricated construction, as a new technology of building schools, provides an alternate solution to meeting the country's school shortages within a substantially reduced construction period.
Award for Architecture Citation
According to the design team at Geldenhuys & Jooste, the brief for this flagship project was to design a signature school that would become a sanctuary for teaching and learning, whilst using alterative steel technologies within the existing cost parameter. It was envisioned that a cost effective prototype could be developed. The Meetse A Bophelo Primary School is designed for 1200 pupils. The accommodation list includes 30 classrooms, an administration block and a media centre among others. The design included a caretaker's house, sports fields landscaping, on-line computers and furniture. The completed project had to comply with the guidelines of the Gauteng Department of Education.
The design is anchored by defining the social heart of the school, namely a nutrition centre and tuck shop with a wrap-around dining veranda. Here volunteer parents daily prepare hot meals for the children. The entry aptly quotes Grant D Fairley by stating that "a hungry child cannot digest their education".
From this core, three primary coloured triangular wings radiate around courtyards, each housing a separate learning phase. The walkways surrounding the courtyards originate in the aforementioned social nucleus. It splays from drummed corner ramps and stairs, directing the children to and from the different classroom wings. The media centre and administration block spins off at right angles from the bell tower that forms a focus element at the social nucleus.
The structure comprises of IPE portal frames bolted to raft foundations. Exterior cladding consists of the patented Arcelor Mittal Arval façade system (which has been described as haute couture in metal). Powder coated windows and doors together with Chromadek roof sheeting fixed to top hat purlins, complete the exterior skin.
Interior divisions were accomplished by cladding lightweight steel.
The construction was phased, allowing the school to remain operational during the erection of the new structure. The project was completed in just more than 12 months and 80% of the workforce was recruited from the surrounding community. The adjudicators' visit to the Meetse A Bophelo Primary School was scheduled for early afternoon, and we arrived to find a school abuzz with activity. Although the tuck shop was closed, parents were sitting at the tables, the children were in class and the bathrooms were clean. On asking the headmaster, Mr Patrick Sikhumbane, about his favourite place we were accompanied to the reading room (adjoining the computer centre). "I come here to breathe and recharge", he said.
With this project Geldenhuys & Jooste Architects invests in South Africa's future by providing children with a place where they would want to be whilst being educated. This team of architects displays the importance of design. It highlights the value that should be added when a client employs a professional in the built environment.
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.