Project description by jury
The Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq are a unique site of high natural and cultural value with a desperate need for educational facilities and policy measures for the architectural heritage preservation. The project asserts the design and construction of an educational facility in Basra to accommodate classrooms, a library and a music room, as well as multipurpose halls and activity rooms. The pedagogical complex is generated by the repetition of vaulted roof units centered around a large square that is accessible to the public. The architectural language recalls traditional geometries and construction techniques of the Mesopotamian (or Iraqi) Marshes and emphasizes the traditional vernacular bioclimatic features. The building is constructed principally using rammed earth cast on-site from local soil. The walls are further stabilized through the addition of a small proportion of cement to create a hybrid material that is very affordable and more durable. The uppermost sections of the walls are made of woven reeds that allow the access of daylight and enable cross-ventilation in the classrooms. Entirely built by the local workforce, the project is implemented as a collaborative community hub, resulting in an opportunity for knowledge and skill transfer to younger generations.
The Holcim Awards jury Middle East Africa applauded this beautifully described and presented proposal, whose program was considered context-sensitive and coherent with the cultural and geographical specificities and needs. The reinterpretation of Iraqi vernacular architecture was found not only aesthetically compelling but also very relevant to cultural identity and community empowerment. Material choice and construction strategies are very thoughtful and effective to improve indoor comfort while creating an evocative atmosphere inside the classrooms.See more
Native materials, innovative methods
Utilizing the available local resources: mud, reeds, and people. The main building elements are rammed earth walls which are cast on-site using local soil. The walls are stabilized through adding a small amount of cement, creating a hybrid local material that is very affordable, environmentally sustainable and durable. The walls are covered with reed roofs, made from reed columns and woven reed screens, to protect from rain, provide privacy while allowing natural daylight into the classrooms.
Passive design plays a major role in environmental sustainability; the modular units interlock to provide shaded spaces in between. They also employ a split roof and an integrated air-cooling wind-catcher to take advantage of the prevailing northwestern winds, providing cross-ventilation and cooling.
People as a resource
The locals’ knowledge and building skills are the most valuable resource available; through embracing the existing building techniques and enhancing them as modern-day methods, the project ensures the continuation of such architectural heritage to later generations. As a collaborative community effort, the school would be built entirely by locals, therefore it is important to make the construction process simple, streamlined and easily understood. The school is not only for students; it is a gathering place for all community members who are willing to share a learning experience. As a human-centered design approach, public areas, squares, and open venues provide the perfect outlet for self-expression and a basis for a tightly knit community to thrive, building and learning together.
Celebrating architectural heritage
The school employs local building techniques while also modernizing them, which will help the locals refine their building trade and create a more sustainable economy while showcasing the existing heritage through the simplicity of architectural language. Being extracted from the same materials used in the area, the project is extremely context-sensitive and respectful of the surrounding environment. It allows the locals to fully grow into the school and be integrated within the community while also providing room for expansion for future generations. It is an upgrade from the local "mud schools" which are in sub-par condition, and responds to environmental, economic, and social needs of Iraqi locals, contributing to the aesthetic quality of the marshes through architectural space and form.See more
The Mesopotamian Marshlands of Iraq are a UNESCO World Heritage site. In order to preserve their natural and cultural value, knowledge about them must be passed on. However, educational facilities are lacking. This project aims to build a simple but highly functional school in Basra with classrooms, a library, music room, multifunctional auditoriums, and activity rooms. The principal building material is locally sourced rammed earth. The addition of a small amount of cement increases the stability. The hybrid material is durable and affordable. Parts of the walls are made with woven reeds. This allows light and air to enter the building. “I utilize native building materials, earth and reed, in an innovative manner,” says winner Noor Marji, architect from Ammann, Jordan.
“There is a renaissance of materials that have different types of qualities, including their low-carbon footprint,” confirms Marilyne Andersen. The buildings are characterized by a series of modular units which incorporate arched forms, a traditional element of Iraqi architecture. The jury praises the reinterpretation of Iraqi architecture for being in harmony with the cultural and geographic characteristics of the region.Read more »
Next Generation 4th prize winner Earthen Education in Iraq – School reinterpreting vernacular architecture by Noor …
Next Generation 4th prize winner Noor Marji, architect/student, Amman, Jordan for Earthen Education in Iraq – School …
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