Classroom of hope

A school in Klapmuts outside Stellenbosch is more than a place of learning for children. It is a beacon of hope for a community.

From the Series

The community of Klapmuts on the outskirts of Stellenbosch is an underpriviledged community like so many others in South Africa.

Except that this community has a new primary school to boast. A building that has come to highlight the importance of education, while also serving as a symbol of hope for the future.

Emerging Architecture was commissioned to design the new school for the community.

For Eugene da Silva and his team the process started with spending time in the community. Through this they came to understand the people’s desperate desire for change, for something that would help them through the hard times.

Keen to get the community involved, Da Silva held an art competition where the children were asked to draw how they would like their new school to look. Da Silva says that nearly all the entrants had drawn stairs to a second floor. He ascribes this fascination with height to the fact that the tallest structure in the community is the church, with its large apex. There was also a lot of use of colour.

More than designing a school for some 1 300 learners, the architects wanted the facility to be a place of community learning, a place where everybody in the community is welcome to learn and to make use of the library and computer resources.

Looking to the structure of the school, the building was positioned to allow the northern light into the courtyard that serves a playground, optimising the use of natural light.

Corridors were created aruond an h-shape layout, forming new coutyards in the process while also leaving room for possible expansion in the future. The large windows in the classrooms again allow for the optimisation of natural light.

A sliding gate and high wall separate the public and private realms, ensuring that learners feel safe once within the school boundaries. The ablutions have louvered vents enabling subtle supervision - minimising potential mischievous behaviour.

Da Silva explains: “The building is designed in a way which will catapult the learners into a semi-corporate yet playful environment. It will allow the community to boast of their new library and the increased sense of empowerment it has brought to their lives.”