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Competition: Schools without classrooms, Berlin

An open international ideas contest has been announced for a revolutionary 8,000m² middle-school building within Berlin’s disused Tempelhof Airport (Deadline: 30 June)

The competition seeks radical proposals that challenge the established ‘chair-desk-whiteboard mode of teaching’ and deliver more versatile and flexible learning spaces for a future generation of learners.

Inspired by the pedagogical idea that the environment is a pupil’s ‘third teacher’, the project aims to inspire students and create a landmark alternative to the contemporary educational paradigms by harnessing fun and visually appealing aesthetics. Innovative decorative themes, layouts and landscaping are all encouraged.

Contest site: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

Contest site: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

Contest site: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

According to the brief: ‘In most countries, schools have adopted a very general, mechanical and theoretical system of education that minutely focuses on problem solving, practical and experimental methods and most importantly, personal interests of children.

‘The competition seeks to radicalise the school system through architecture, not only in terms of improving the quality of study environment but revamping the system and breaking all the physical and metaphorical class divisions into an entirely new school system.’

The eagle-shaped airport was constructed in 1927, expanded during the 1930s, then shut down in 2008 and transformed into a 400ha public park. Since September 2015, the former airport has been used as an emergency refugee camp hosting around 13,000 new arrivals awaiting permanent homes.

Sutherland Hussey Harris (SHH) and landscape architect Gross Max won a competition to masterplan the site’s overhaul five years ago. The project, which included a 60m-high artificial mountain housing a climbing school, was however vetoed following a public referendum in 2014.

Contest site: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

Contest site: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

Contest site: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

Since then the city has agreed to gradually open large parts of the building and its roof surfaces to the public.

Proposals for the 9,000m² contest site in the south-west corner of the airfield should feature group teaching spaces, self-teaching spaces with technology support, customised learning spaces, a staff section, administrative section, sports facilities and canteen.

There are no height restrictions and designs may be submerged by up to 6m below ground level. Parking will be hosted elsewhere and is not required as part of the site plan.

The competition is organised by Archasm, an India-based online organiser of international ideas contests. Previous calls for ideas have included a library in London’s Hyde Park, which featured winning entries from South Korea, Poland and Germany.

Submissions must be feature one landscape A1 board including 3D visualisations, diagrams, CAD drawings and a 250-word explanation in English. Teams featuring at least one student may apply for a group discount on the competition’s registration fee.

The overall winner, set to be announced on 24 July, will receive £1,210 while a second place prize of £725 and third place prize of £485 will also be awarded along with 10 honourable mentions.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for registration is at 23:59 IST (UTC +5:30) on 29 June
The deadline for submissions is at 23:59 IST (UTC +5:30) on 30 June

Fee

Early registration from 1 April to 31 May: €60
Standard registration from 1 June to 29 June: €80

Contact details

Email: submission@archasm.in , queries@archasm.in

View the competition website for more information

Deh-e Now Village School case study: Q&A with Alireza Ghandehari

The chief executive of S Misagh Architecture & Engineering discusses lessons learned designing a village school in rural Iran

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

How does your Deh-e Now Village School propose a new fun and sustainable form of education for Iran?

In this project, three main aspects in design were considered to maintain sustainability:

1. Users’ needs, mainly children’s

2. Social fabric and local culture

3. Local design methods and architectural materials corresponding to the climate

In what ways do children learn? What should they learn in the first place?

In this school, education is based on ‘play’, ‘experience’, ‘physical activity’, and ‘developing a circle of friends’. The ‘playground’ is surrounded by six classes. In classrooms, the furniture could easily be arranged in various ways, flexible enough for the teacher to have the most practical arrangement, regarding the teaching method.

This school, at core, regards interaction with the environment, understanding the cultural history, parents’ occupations, and families’ standard of living as important as literacy. So, it is not merely designed for children. Rather, we have created spaces for the locals to communicate, interact with one another, and hold meetings—the ‘Intermediary Social Space’; additionally, a yard for the farmers to grow a range of new plants—the ‘Village Yard’.

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness in your design?

An inextricable part of this school is local materials, namely bricks, and straw clay. Doors, desks, and chairs are all built in cooperation with the locals. The classes are designed to benefit from local architectural methods in accord with Iran’s hot and dry climate. They provide natural ventilation and cooling systems, obviating the need for electromechanical equipment. For convenient lighting, the sunlight is led to indirectly penetrate the classes through the roof, to provide a softly lit room. Besides, children can play outside the class away from scorching sunlight throughout the whole year.

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing new schools without classrooms in Berlin?

As architects, there are a number of crucial questions we need to address:

1. Approaching the design of such a school, which is pivotal: form or practicality?

2. If the latter is the appropriate response, the very beginning step is to consider the users’ needs.

3. How can this school interact with, and influence, the surrounding social fabric? Can it go beyond the role of a ‘school’, as currently people, even many designers, conceive of?

4. Should we question the very concept of school?

Thinking outside the box, we need to ask braver questions.

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering

Deh-e Now Village School in Iran by S.Misagh Architecture & Engineering