German architecture firm Studio Anna Heringer has completed the first kindergarten in Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani District, a rural and desolate region home to about 200 families that have long lacked access to education. The kindergarten, which builds on the firm’s award-winning portfolio of humanitarian architecture, serves as a pilot project for PORET, Zimbabwe’s permaculture community, to promote permaculture and encourage self-sufficiency in the local community. Using community labor to support the local economy, the buildings are constructed from locally sourced timber, thatch and stone.
Constructed over approximately 11 months in 2014, the kindergarten consists of a pair of domed buildings set on stone foundations. The structural frames use timber from Zimbabwe tree plantations. Inspired by the country’s beautiful thatched roofs and the routine tradition of cutting grass to lower an area’s risk of fire, the architects covered the structural ribs with thatching.
Local craftsmen were employed for the labor-intensive work of thatching and building the stone foundations, thus providing the community with a good share of the construction budget. “With these local techniques the project aims to build with a process that reinforces solidarity and team spirit, skills and knowledge, self-confidence and dignity,” the architects explained. “Due to the contexts climate and local conditions buildings, unless built in glass and steel, will not last forever, but it is essential that the know-how to maintain and rebuild them is kept alive and traded on to the following generations. This is why we see this project primarily as a training in advanced building techniques with existing materials that can become the compost of the kindergarten fields one day.”
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While in operation, the kindergarten will teach children permaculture principles from the basics of soil and plant care to water harvesting techniques. The two buildings can also function as training and meeting spaces for the community.
Images by Margarethe Holzer