Open Architecture Challenge Finalists Announced

This year’s projects all aim to bring innovation to the classroom.

This year’s finalists include Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Architecture for Humanity UK, which jointly proposed these adaptable hillside classrooms for Uganda.

So what does a teacher shortage in Uganda have to do with the migration habits of Indian salt workers and overcrowding in a Harlem charter school? All are among the problems addressed by the eight finalists in Architecture for Humanity’s Open Architecture Challenge, which this year focused on classroom design in both the developing and developed world. Among the winning entries announced this week: an addition to a school for Ugandan orphans, inserted into the side of a mountain overlooking Lake Bunyonyi; a classroom extension in central Nepal, built using bamboo and rammed earth; and a master plan for a school in mountainous Idaho, employing prefabricated building technology and a “pay-as-you-go” expansion scheme.

The projects are ambitious. The best of them combine the demands of client and site-including extremes in climate and topology, and limited energy supplies-with a commitment to a 21st-century education philosophy (a “progressive pedagogy” as one team puts it). Despite broad differences in the geographic range of projects, most designers seem to focus on a handful of themes, including flexibility of classroom space, commitment to vernacular design, and environmental sustainability. As might be expected, budget-for projects from India to Idaho-is a chief concern for these proposals, making them remarkably economical and, we hope, more likely to actually get built.

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