Atelier COLE

Atelier COLE

Phnom Penh, KH | Edinburgh, GB


COLE design school to support rural community education in Cambodia

By louisebti
Jan 27, '21 12:21 PM EST
Frontage of school design is based on a village of stilt houses
Frontage of school design is based on a village of stilt houses

COLE have delivered a number of innovative and diverse school building projects for marginalized communities worldwide. While each one presents a different brief, every project is driven by workshops with the school children and teachers. This ensures the design process initiates ideas and solutions which meet the multitude of varying needs a learning environment requires.

The Kulen Outreach Academy offers education opportunities for children from rural communities around Siem Reap, a town famous for the UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat. While Cambodia is seeing something of a renaissance with investment pouring in from China, rural areas which still make up a large percentage of the population still rely on subsistence farming and are very much at risk from seasonal flooding and natural disasters.

The Kulen Outreach program supports rural education by investing in rural schools but also in providing follow on education to assist older children working towards higher education and vocational training. The Academy provides classrooms for training and associated boarding, dining and leisure facilities.

The buildings are orientated east to west to reduce overheating by the tropical sun. The western and eastern façades provide shade and ventilation. They are characterised by open bricks laid in woven patterns to evoke memories of weaving traditional krama patterns. The result is a façade that gives privacy but also transparency which is important in making the space feel welcoming to students, staff and visitors.

The layout for the school around a central courtyard helped moderate the internal temperatures of the rooms by promoting airflow. The deep eaves provide shaded circulation spaces wide enough to sit and chat. These areas help in improving comfort for both students and staff. The clients desire was to create a campus that felt less like an institutional building and more like a welcoming home. The aim was to provide a safe and secure place for learning and living. As the gardens mature and the trees grow, the buildings edges will soften and resemble more each year the common sight of the stilt houses of the surrounding villages.

Phase 1 of the project has been completed and phase 2 will see the campus double in size to take on the additional capacity over the coming years.

“Our teachers and visitors comment on how the school kept the essence of the traditional Cambodian building where sleeping areas are above and below. It is open to allow people to gather, socialize and relax during the daytime with a wonderful breeze, all while being protected from the sun. People also comment on the brise soleil façade keeping the sun out and allowing for air to come through, cooling the social spaces upstairs. Aesthetically, the façade also puts on a show every evening as the bricks reflect and enhance the orange and red hue of the Cambodian countryside as the sun sets on it.”

Chris Schoenbaum, Program Director – Kulen Outreach