The Mankgaile Primary School, located in a rural village outside the city of Polokwane in Limpopo, South Africa, is the most important building in the area. Not only do the new facilities replace a set of rudimentary school buildings, but the school also serves as a community center. Designed by Cape Town-based SAOTA, and built from maintenance-free brick the color of the surrounding earth, the primary school relies on natural daylighting and ventilation, even incorporating a number of shade structures to keep the heat of the sun off the building and walkways.
The project was sponsored by PetroSA and now is the commanding focal point for the village in the Limpopo province. Replacing a set of basic and dilapidated buildings, the school is now an organized, symmetrical and formal two-story building. The school is a linear spine with the main entrance placed on one end and two courtyard open-air classrooms in the middle. Along the side of the volume are a public square and large steps that lead up to the classrooms. These steps also serve as impromptu bleachers for games, events and festivals. The bathrooms are easily accessible both during school hours and afterwards for community events.
Brick the color of the surrounding earth was used to construct the building, and is completely low-maintenance and should last indefinitely. Accents are used with plaster painted a dark mud color or hand-carved. Large windows flood the classrooms with natural daylight, and operable windows and cross ventilation help keep the space cool. Outside, delicate, white, steel polls form the structure for the shade devices, which are covered with a pergola of latte (Eucalyptus sticks). Light filters through the pergola creating dappled patterns on the ground and shielding the walkways and buildings from the strong afternoon sun.
“Being the most important building in the village and as it is used as the village community center, place of gathering, 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, co-founder of SAOTA.
The primary school was completed in 2006 and then received a Merit Award from the South African Institute of Architects. Mankgaile was largely built by members of the local community.
Images © SAOTA