A wooden boarding school dormitory located on the edge of a rainforest in northern Brazil has been declared the world's best new building. Children Village was chosen from a longlist of 62 projects to receive the prestigious RIBA 2018 International Prize.
RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) inaugurated the International Prize in 2016 with Peru's "modern day Machu Picchu" by Grafton Architects. The prize isn't awarded to the flashiest or most expensive build, but rather to a project that RIBA's judges feel exemplifies design excellence and architectural ambition, as well as delivering meaningful social impact.
Children Village certainly meets all three criteria. The beautiful wooden building provides accommodation for over 500 children aged between 13 to 18 who are attending the Canuanã School. It's one of 40 schools in Brazil funded by the Bradesco Foundation, which ensures education for disadvantaged children in rural communities across the country.
Architects Gustavo Utrabo and Petro Duschenes from Aleph Zero, along with Rosenbaum's Marcelo Rosenbaum and Adriana Benguela, worked closely with the kids and asked what they needed to feel comfortable away from home.
The result is a 25,000 sq m (270,000 sq ft) complex split into two identical parts: one for girls and another for boys. Residences are arranged around large courtyards at ground level, while the first floor includes communal spaces like reading nooks, television rooms, balconies, and hammocks.
The residences themselves host just six children at a time (previous dormitories housed 40 kids to a room) and each room has its own toilet, shower room, and laundry.
Impressively, despite the tropical local climate, which can reach around 45° C (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer, Children Village ensures a comfortable interior without any air-conditioning.
This is achieved passively, with a large canopy roof offering lots of shade. Additionally, perforated earth blocks chosen for their excellent thermal properties were made on-site. Wooden slats are used to improve ventilation and rainwater is reused for irrigating the garden. One gets the sense of a building perfectly suited to its location and purpose.
"I am delighted that Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum have been recognized for their impressive work," says RIBA President Ben Derbyshire. "Aleph Zero are philosophical and thoughtful architects and Rosenbaum is known for their work with local communities. Children Village provides an exceptional environment designed to improve the lives and wellbeing of the school's children, and illustrates the immeasurable value of good educational design."
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