Selldorf Architects has completed a 30,000-square-foot school in the Mwabwindo Village of Zambia, the second of its kind in the rural community. Built through the non-profit 14+ Foundation and designed as a multi-building education center, the Mwabwindo School gives over 250 students, ranging from preschool to 7th grade, the chance to learn in a safe and welcoming environment with a vision inspired by the scattered trees of the Central African Plateau. According to the architects, the center’s unique layout—built like a village—was prompted by the tall, individual trees in the savanna that protect people and animals from the oppressive heat and heavy rain seasons. As a nod to these natural shading structures, Selldorf integrated a 23-by-23-foot corrugated metal canopy over the series of mud-brick classrooms, all of which are situated around a courtyard and internal “street.” Joseph Mizzi, president of Sciame Construction and co-founder of the 14+ Foundation, told AN that it took over 150,000 bricks to build the structures, and each brick was handmade by local masons and fired using earth from the region. Based on the foundation’s work building the Chipakata Children’s Academy in nearby Lusaka, Zambia, in 2015, leadership wanted locals to be heavily involved in the construction process this time as well. “Our experience is that when parents of the school children and community members become integral to the building process, it allows them to feel more proud of the end result and more respectful of what the school stands for,” said Mizzi. In total, the Mwabwindo School contains eight classrooms, an art space, a library, support structures for storage, and a six-unit cluster of housing for teachers. It also features a community vegetable garden and playing field for the kids. In the near future, the center will include expanded teachers' housing and dormitories for students. The 14+ Foundation was started by Mizzi and Zambian-born stylist Nchimunya Wulf in 2012 in an effort to enhance education in the rural communities of Africa where most students have to walk over four miles each way to school every day. The Chipakata Children’s Academy, designed by Susan Rodriguez of Ennead, Frank Lupo, Randy Antonia Lott, and Nat Oppenheimer of Silman Engineering, is located in the same jurisdiction as the Mwabwindo School. With the two now open, there are four total schools in the village; the other two are run by the government. Mizzi said the new projects give children across the entire village better access to the personal education they deserve. “In addition to serving the students at both our schools, we’re also addressing a bigger issue within the larger community by reducing the teacher-to-pupil ratio,” he said. "At the Mwabwindo School, there are around 25 to 30 children in a classroom." The Mwabwindo School has already won numerous architectural awards both for its design and for its commitment to sustainability. Like the children’s academy, which dually features an angular, lightweight roof structure, the architecture isn’t supposed to be attention-grabbing but instead functional and beautiful. The village itself already runs on 100 percent renewable energy, so Selldorf specified solar panels and integrated a rainwater collection system into the community garden. While students will learn how these green resources are used on-site, they will also focus on arts-based programs at the school. It was recently announced that artist Rashid Johnson is working with the foundation on a site-specific mural with the help of students, expected to be completed next spring.
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Brooklyn’s Prospect Park will soon receive a refurbished Lakeside Center, with help from a $10 million donation to the Prospect Park Alliance and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The LeFrak family, real estate royalty within the borough and in the Tri-state area, has gifted the sum in support of the oft-delayed green space revamp, which finally set a completion date for December of this year. In the heart of Prospect Park’s 526-acre grounds, project restoration by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and construction company Sciame will redevelop the Wollman Ice Rink for use during all four seasons. This lakeside facility is to be renamed The Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Center, honoring the family’s philanthropy in Brooklyn. After a series of construction schedule setbacks over the past few years, Prospect Park is on track for its grand re-opening. In phase one, finished last year, the project improved its landscaped grounds, some to the original mid-nineteenth century designs by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Now, Tod Williams Billie Tsien will focus on the built structures. The firm plans to replace the original ice rink with a parking lot for greater park accessibility. A new lakeside Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Center will offer year-round activities: winter ice-skating and hockey, summer roller-skating, and a water feature with wading pool for children. The architects says the center will maintain a low profile and low consumption, “nestled into the landscape” planned by Olmsted and Vaux. Overall, project costs total $74 million. With the LeFrak family donation, the renovated Prospect Park is scheduled to reopen in the next few weeks.
On Wednesday, architects and developers gathered to hear colleagues hold forth on the topic of “Innovation by Necessity” at New York’s Center for Architecture, a panel that seemed to promise a semi-sleepy discussion of building information modeling (BIM) at the World Trade Center site. But after several speakers outlined the logistics of the vast construction project, the panel veered into another topic entirely: an eye-opening primer on security strategies at Ground Zero. Moderated by The New York Times’ Charles Bagli, the event brought three speakers together representing the site’s major stakeholders: government, architects, and contractors. First up, Robert Harvey, executive director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, delivered a sweeping presentation of development around the site (with some details sanitized for security purposes), along with the 50-odd projects below Canal Street that his office coordinates using a high-tech 4-D mapping system. Next, Frank Sciame took the podium. His company, F.J. Sciame Construction, is perhaps best known for working with name architects on complicated designs, and was tapped by Governor George Pataki in 2006 to control soaring costs at the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum. It’s not a surprise then that Sciame homed in on BIM as a tool to analyze and streamline the memorial’s daunting complexity. But when Carl Galioto, senior principal at HOK and an acknowledged expert on BIM, began to discuss security and design issues related to 1 World Trade Center, the crowd was riveted. Galioto, who also worked on Larry Silverstein’s 7 World Trade Center, noted that though Silverstein may not like to hear it, 7 was a prototype for the newer tower. And far more divulging than Harvey’s presentation, Galioto delved into the particulars of floor plans and the design of the tower’s core. In the wake of September 11, Galioto noted, many observers called for escape routes in tall buildings to be located on the exterior, as opposed to the core, as was the case at the Trade Center’s original towers. Galioto compared this to lifeboats set loose within the dangerous environs of the ocean. Buildings anchor on land, he said, and therefore designers must return to the core for both safety and security. To strengthen the core, the structure first needs to be fortified from the outside in. To that end, Galioto described a system of multiple lines of defense inspired by star-shaped forts of the 16th century. In the case of the World Trade Center, the buffer zones are both practical and at times aesthetically disguised. For example, the first zone includes a large park to the south and a smaller one to the north. The second protective zone centers on the base. Here, to the east and west, next to public highways and streets, Con Ed’s utilities hulk next to the concrete shell. The lobby opens onto the larger buffer park to the south. The entire process repeats itself once again in the core, with stand-alone zones of protection—cores within cores. Extensive studies were conducted on how people descend stairs (they sway from side to side) to design the structure. In the fire escapes, doors open away from the direction of traffic, and provide enough distance for people to merge into the descending flow from floors above, just as cars merge on a highway. Perhaps because Galioto was the last to speak, or maybe because he was discussing life or death issues, when the conversation opened to the floor, BIM was left behind and the focus remained on security. At one point, a member of the audience who has worked in Israel asked if New Yorkers weren’t overreacting a bit. Bagli fielded the question first. “In Israel, you have a lot of soldiers on the street,” he said, before adding that machine gun–toting Carabiniere in Rome’s airport didn’t make him feel safe, either. Harvey replied that, in the end, protecting Lower Manhattan was a balancing act. “Downtown is unique,” he said. “It’s the nerve center of the economy. You have to balance risks and mitigation.”