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School Floating in the Sky in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand by Kochi University of Technology

AR_EA Highly Commended: Catering for orphans and children of refugees, earthbound domes support a lightweight steel structure

Located in Sangkhlaburi, a village on Thailand’s border with Burma, this school caters for the children of refugees and orphans displaced by the Burmese regime. Despite the inevitably low budget, the aim was to create a practical yet seductive environment shaped by the imagination of its young users. As part of the collaborative design process, a teacher asked the children to visualise their ideal school. One drew a flying boat that was translated into the final form of the building. The initial image was developed into two architectural elements: an organic, earthbound structure on the ground capped by a lightweight steel structure clad in bamboo with a grass roof.

plan preview

Floor plan - click to expand



The earthbound organic elements of the Prayer Dome and classroom create a warm, intimate interior realm, fostering a sense of comfort and connection with the earth. The sandbag domes represent the launchpad supplying the boat with the energy of Mother Earth.The upper level, the boat soaring in the sky, functions as a Buddhist room and learning area. A gentle breeze percolates through the thatched roof and natural light washes through the side openings, emphasising the sense of being aloft in a boat.

The school has become a popular place for the local community to study, play and pray. The creative interpretation of a child’s initial concept has shaped a building that helps a marginalised group of people to achieve a better future.

School Floating in the Sky

Architect: Kochi University of Technology

Photographs: Kikuma Watanabe

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