Red River Primary School and Silverstream Primary School were selected to be part of the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI). ASIDI’s objective was to replace existing inadequate schools with new schools on the same sites as the existing schools and with minimal disruption to the existing schools. That meant that the schools had to be designed, documented and delivered within an accelerated time frame (tendering was based on stage two documentation). In addition to the time constraints there were the contractual challenges of constructing two schools under one contract.
Red River and Silverstream are about 3km apart on different sites. The existing buildings were similar at both schools. They were mostly prefabricated structures on concrete and brick plinths that offered poor insulation and weather resistance, were partly constructed with asbestos and generally not conducive to an environment for healthy learning. The buildings were located in long thin lines parallel to each other. The spaces between the buildings were generally loose gravel and sand. It was determined that the buildings were in bad condition and needed to be demolished but due to the fact that the existing schools had to remain operational, the buildings could only be demolished once the new schools were completed. Moving the existing school into temporary mobile accommodation was not an option due to high costs.
The placement of the new buildings thus became restricted to the vacant areas of both sites. These were not necessarily the most ideal areas due to prevalent contextual issues and because the size of the area was limited.
The Manenberg urban context is one of ‘clotheslines spanning across government-built housing, where children play in the streets and the community is struggling with poverty, unemployment and high-levels of violence where gangsters are at war with each other and engage in shootouts’. For this reason, the design of the new school had to be focused towards creating a secure and friendly environment. The entire perimeter of each site was secured with either a concrete or steel 2.4m high security fence as the first means of protection. The form of the buildings became the second means of protection. The classroom blocks were given a simple mono-pitch form with the highest point of the mono-pitch located on the side facing the surrounding community. The strip of land created between the security fence and the high wall became the third means of protection with dense planting of Fever trees and Num-num bushes that were chosen for their large thorns. It is foreseen that once the planting has become fully established that this green belt will also provide other benefits. The trees will provide shading to the buildings and the street while also filtering views of the surroundings. Birds and insects should return to the area.
The layout of the mono-pitch classroom buildings provided the fourth means of protection by creating safe internal courts that function as the playing spaces. The low point of the mono-pitch roof was located on the internal side of the courts to lower the scale of the buildings as experienced by the learners. The courts contain PT Slabs suitably sized for netball courts with hard paved surfaces. The edges of the courts are softened with areas of indigenous planting. From these courts Table Mountain is visible in the distance.
The classrooms are mainly double-banked around an internal, secure, weather-proof, wide central passage. The central passage allows natural light into the classrooms through a roof light with the classroom ceilings shaped to maximise light from the passage. The roof light is covered with translucent sheeting and has vertical ventilation louvres on one side. The classrooms also have high-level windows on the passage side so that each classroom receives north and south light with a light shelf where required to diffuse the direct sunlight.
At the heart of the internal courts are located the two most significant structures of the schools, the Multi-media Centre and the Hall. The Multi-media Centre has been interpreted as the temple of learning of the school. For this reason the form of the roof and ceiling were given great importance by being shaped to allow light to enter from a central top light onto the desk or ‘altar’ below. The need to give a human scale to the large volume of the Hall was a challenge. The scale of the main volume was reduced by surrounding the large volume with lower roofed service areas. Materials were chosen for their warmth and acoustic properties.
As the final phase of construction new junior soccer fields have been provided on the area where the existing school buildings have been demolished. These fields offer a further means of protection by being distance buffers between the unenclosed fourth side of the school and the outside. A line of fencing has also been provided between the fourth side and the field to control access to and from the field. Each field has been provided with an irrigation system supplied from a borehole on the site to assist the school in maintaining the field with minimal costs. All existing trees have been retained and many new indigenous trees have been planted.
As a standard measure in government construction projects, there was a substantial percentage of local labour involved in the construction of the schools. There were many challenges with theft and the occasional shut down due to shootings in the area, but on the whole the community applied themselves to the idea of the school as an asset for the future. The school was recently officially opened and has been well received.
Department of Transport and Public Works – Education
Western Cape Education Department and Department of Basic Education
expected May 2016
Nala Consulting Engineers (Pty) Ltd
Siyakhatala Safety CC
Haw & Inglis Projects (Pty) Ltd