International architectural firm Studio Mortazavi has teamed up with Colorado-based nonprofit Thinking Huts to propose designs for the world’s first 3D-printed school to be located in southern Madagascar. Developed to improve access to education in remote and impoverished areas, the modular concept taps into 3D printing for its low-carbon benefits and ability to shorten construction time from months to a matter of days. The design team, which has also partnered with Finland-based 3D technology company Hyperion Robotics and local Madagascar university EMIT, hopes to break ground on the pilot project in 2021.

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According to UNESCO, over 260 million children around the world lack access to education — a staggering number that includes over half of Madagascar’s 1.3 million primary-age children, who are not enrolled in school due to classroom overcrowding. As a result, Thinking Huts and Studio Mortazavi chose southern Madagascar for the pilot site, not only because of the pressing need for more educational infrastructure but also because of the country’s economic growth potential, political stability and optimal conditions for solar harvesting.

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rendering of vertical gardens on the side of a school building

The 3D-printed pilot school will follow a low-cost modular design for scalability and adaptability. Inspired by a beehive, each wedge-shaped module will be printed from clay with natural pigments from the local landscape, then joined together with other units into a variety of configurations. Each module can be used as a standalone classroom that accommodates 20 children with space for a library, reading area, whiteboard desks and chairs, two individual toilets, a shared sink and storage. The modules can also be easily adapted for other uses such as a dance studio, woodworking shop and even housing. The eco-minded prototype project is expected to feature a vertical garden on the outside of its 3D-printed walls as well as rooftop solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system.

rendering of desks and library inside a school building

“We are thrilled to be working with Studio Mortazavi who is at the forefront of design and innovation, forming a strong partnership that values sustainability within the construction industry as we seek to increase access to education via 3D-printed schools,” said Maggie Grout, founder of Thinking Huts. “We believe education is the vital catalyst to solving global issues ranging from gender inequality to poverty; achievable through local partnerships, we are building a future where communities have the necessary infrastructure to ensure that education is accessible to all.”

rendering of building modules made of 3D-printed clay

Once the prototype project is complete, Thinking Huts hopes to build three additional schools with its materials partner LafargeHolcim in Madagascar’s Ibity.

+ Thinking Huts

Images via Thinking Huts