Client: Asociación Abay
Surface: 600 m2
Location: Gaba Kemisa, Ethiopia
Status: Competition Entry
Year: 2021

It takes a preschool to bring together a community. Asociación Abay has been delivering its mission centred on children in Gaba Kemisa, while simultaneously caring for the community as a whole. The child has been the main focus of the preschool, yet additional programs have been catering to the mothers and the families as well. As the younger children are being taken care of, the older children can attend school and the mothers are also welcome to alphabetization classes.

The preschool has been designed according to Place Based Education Principles where the children are immersed in the village and the community as they thrive and find connections with the world. The child identifies with their classroom as a distinct unit and bonds with their immediate group. Each two classrooms are tied by a courtyard as each group of youngsters extends their relationships to the other children of the school.

The scale grows further as the two courtyards connect and the connection to the outer community is established through the spaces that open up to the village and the community. This approach towards education celebrates empathy and community ties as the child starts learning quite early from their immediate environment, culture and real life interactions.

Every activity of life is catered for as a communal opportunity of learning. The cafeteria is at the end of the herbal garden where the preschool grows its own special ingredients.

Sustainability has been planned in this project on two levels. First, the construction is environmentally friendly, where it is inspired by available materials and local know-how. Second, the use of the school on day-to-day basis is energy efficient as well as resourceful. The master plan involves a holistic design where water harvesting features and orchards are put in place in order to mutually green and nourish the children and families.

All the spaces benefit from natural daylight through lateral windows while roof windows make the best of otherwise inaccessible orientations. The roof itself acts as a proactive component in canalizing rain water towards the pre-established rain water harvest facilities.
Abay’s Satellite Schools in Ethiopia are of great significance for the entire family. This relationship has to be celebrated for the sake of the children’s education and in service of the greater collective.

The preschool has a distinct form obtained thanks to the program, context and constraints. This helps in identifying the preschools inspired by the Ethiopian vernacular and recognizing these precious spaces serving the children and their families. Flexibility, however, has also been a priority where any new school should be easily implemented despite any lack of first choice materials. The design is modular in order to adapt to any land limitations and each module can be eventually built as per the available materials at the time.