Home » Green School SA defined by organic shapes from the mountains & the Paarl Berg boulders

Green School SA defined by organic shapes from the mountains & the Paarl Berg boulders

by Justin

Green School South Africa, is an eight-hectare sustainable schooling campus located in the low-lying Paarl Valley, spatially defined by the Paarl Berg to the north, Drakenstein Mountains to the east and south, and Simons Berg towards the south-west. The spatial arrangement at a macro level is what inspired the space making, but also the individual buildings and spaces between them.

Reoccurrence of multiples at incremental scales is an idea that defines the behaviour of most natural systems. The architecture of the individual buildings is defined by organic tectonic shapes originating from the mountains that contain the valley but also more directly from the Paarl Berg Boulders. These solid shapes are arranged to accommodate the programmatic need of each of the individual buildings.

The first phase of the campus was completed in February 2021 and comprises various clusters of buildings nestled in amidst orchards, vegetable gardens, walkways, landscaped terraces and spill-out spaces. These buildings include 16 classroom facilities for children ranging from kindergarten to Grade 8, the Sangkep (Balinese term for a multipurpose space), an administrative building and the heart of the school.

The individual clusters of buildings are weaved together by landscaping and a series of organic shaped ‘werf’ walls to create a coherent whole, and a world of passageways and spaces for students to discover.

Harmonious spaces where humankind and nature can reconnect

Upon arriving at the school, a landscaped gabion wall leads the visitor to the administrative building that sits on the main axial circulation spine of the campus, linking the more public buildings together. These buildings include the Sangkep, tree-lined market area, deli, co-working space and heart of the school. The heart of the school is the centre of the precinct were all the paths converge. The building is defined by three boulder‐like shapes defining the path leading from the arrival plaza. The one side of the building contains the dining hall, life lab and kitchen, and the other a library, art and music studio and ablution facilities.

The main circulation spine branches off into carefully considered meandering routes, to create moments of excitement, wonderment and discovery. These secondary routes lead to the primary school and kindergarten where both spill out in landscaped courtyards. The kindergarten cluster is sheltered and hidden by landscaped berms, and the walkway covered with a hand-woven sapling growing tunnel, which depending on the time of the year is covered with colourful foliage.

The positions of the different zones and buildings have been carefully considered, taking into account passive design principals, feng shui and the seven petals provided by the Living Building Challenge (place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity and beauty). The result being harmonious spaces where humankind and nature can reconnect.

To further enhance this idea, the building walls are kept to a minimum to allow for big expansive openings ensuring visual connection between inside and outside spaces. The manner in which the classrooms and buildings spill out into nature also fosters project-based learning.

Constructed from naturally and locally sourced materials

The visual connectedness of the buildings is not the only aspect that link the architecture with nature. All buildings are constructed from naturally and locally sourced materials, such as dek-riet ceilings, clay and soil harvested from site to create rammed earth walls and lime plaster, the pebbles retrieved from the site used to construct gabion walls, and reclaimed Tique doors from the larger Drakenstein region. This all to better integrate the architecture within its surroundings and celebrate the materials and workmanship from the local area.

These organic shaped stereotomic buildings with large oversailing leaf-like roof structures for rainwater collection, punched openings to frame vistas and views, bay windows, thick rammed earth or clay brick walls, clerestory windows for filtered natural light and ventilation, textured screening elements, all create enticing and playful spaces.

This multi-layered development where architecture and landscape coincide, creates for enticing and playful spaces where children can engage, explore and learn. GASS Architecture Studios created a layered architectural environment that is rich of information and speaks to the key principles in biophilic design.

The Green School SA development broke ground in February 2020 and the school doors opened in February 2021.

  • Photos by Wieland Gleich, ARCHIGRAPHY.com
  • ARCHITECTS: GASS Architecture Studios
  • Design Architect & Principal Agent: Wessel van Dyk, Chris Bakker
  • Project Architect: Theuna Stoltz

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