Build to make a change
A school prototype between tradition and innovation in Ghana
InsideOut is a school prototype built in Yeboahkrom, a rural village in Ghana where the wind had destroyed the only school of the area. To transform the lack of resources in developing countries into an opportunity, the project proposes an affordable and easily replicable design that values the local know-how and pushes its limits.
In Ghana, as in many countries in West Africa, the traditional houses were made with earth. However, in recent years it has become associated with the stereotype of a poor farmer’s house and often abandoned in favour of more ‘modern’ construction such as cement blocks and other industrial materials. To promote local building techniques and to demonstrate to the Ghanaian people that their traditional earth buildings are more suitable, beautiful and durable than imported “westernized” models, InsideOut proposes a sustainable and easily replicable project that strategically combines well-established building traditions and the skills of the local workforce.
InsideOut is a school prototype built in Yeboahkrom, a rural village in Ghana where the wind had destroyed the only school of the area. This non-profit project, designed by Andrea Tabocchini & Francesca Vittorini, won several international awards and was constructed in 60 days with just 12 000 euro, together with the local population and volunteers from 20 different countries. Since no electricity was available it was built by hand, crafting materials available on site (earth, wood and vegetation), moving by hand 58 000 kg of soil and planing 3km of wood with 2 hand planers. The lack of resources and the site limitations become the opportunity to propose a sustainable design that merges architecture and landscape. InsideOut takes inspiration from the many patterns that are present in the site and in the local culture (the textures of the typical kente clothes, the rigid oil palms grid, the vegetable gardens layout...) to propose a flexible scheme that transforms the uninspiring standard classrooms layout into a more engaging sequence of multifunctional spaces with different levels of openness. The 40cm wide staggered walls of the classrooms are built by compacting the local earth, a light wood structure lifts the roof up, allowing zenithal light into the building, and generates a natural ventilation of the spaces, while the vegetation of the garden becomes the continuation of the porches, increasing the shaded spaces to study outdoor. The result is a work that blurs the boundary between inside and outside, offering an alternative to standard introverted classrooms and proposing an affordable and easily replicable design that values the local know-how and pushes its limits. To ensure the durability of the structure and to enhance some of the features of the traditional construction techniques, every solution becomes a direct response to real problems/challenges; function and aesthetics merge together.