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Using simple means: School built out of earth and wood

The story of the Kwel Ka Baung Migrant Learning Centre begins with a Canadian aid organisation, which after fundraising $25,000 contacted the Thai architecture office Agora Architects to work on a school project together.  Many migrants without official refugee status live close to the country's border with Myanmar, with the result that their children rarely have access to school education. It also means that the potential of the adults can seldom be put to full use. A number of them were thus involved on construction of the school.

The school complex consists of eleven separate rooms. A covered corridor runs between the classrooms, organised in a staggered arrangement and set apart by broad apertures that enable air to circulate and thus play an instrumental role in the natural cooling of the rooms.  A neighbouring pond can be glimpsed through the apertures on one side; on the other, the playground and volleyball court can be seen in an area additionally bordered by the staff rooms and the luxuriant vegetation growing at the site. The green of the trees and the lotus plants covering the pond contrast with the school's reddish walls. This is not a man-made colour but one resulting from the building material – the earth at the building site. Indeed, only local materials were used so that the few repairs that are likely to become necessary at the end of rainy seasons can be carried out with very little effort. All the walls are built of bricks made out of the loamy soil, while bamboo sticks and eucalyptus branches have been used to form enclosures. These are picked out in bright colours that differ according to classroom, thus facilitating orientation while creating a cheerful and varied effect without disturbing the general cohesion of the architecture.

Second-hand wooden beams were used for the rafters, and are topped by simple tin roofs sloped at an angle, thus forming a gap that allows heat accumulating in the classrooms to escape fairly well.

Although the architecture did not fall back on regional building traditions, the Kwel Ka Baung Migrant Learning Centre is extremely well suited to the prevailing climatic conditions. Plus it is a good example of feasible and inexpensive architecture that makes no compromise on spatial quality – partially because it maintains a strong connection to the landscape.

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