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Strengthen children in the informal settlement by creating a space where they are prioritized

At Kenya
By Arkitekter Utan Gränser - Sweden
Local partners: Zingira
Donors: ASF-Sweden, Wester+Elsner architects, friends & family

During just five weeks we started a crowdfunding, designed, built and had an opening ceremony for a new schoolyard in Kenya, focusing on creativity and thermal comfort, We’re Beata, Sophie and Elsa, master students in architecture.
What if architecture students were able to make a change for children in the poorest regions of the world? We challenged this question and asked ourselves what we could do.
After a month of research and studying in both Gothenburg and Kenya, under the platform Reality Studio at Chalmers we learned about how to work with small-scale projects, design for children and culture in a context that is extremely different from the one we are used to. With these lessons in our pocket we were able to realize an actual project in a Kenyan context.
During our research it was vital to find out the local’s view and needs to lead the project to great result, and later on mixing it with our own ideas. In this very different setting we needed to learn about and connect with the locals, carefully listen to them and figure out how we could help them with our profession. Our project was based in Kisumu, a city in western Kenya. After several visits to the slums we found the Future Hope Academy, a small school in one of the city’s most impoverished areas. Seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the kids and teachers made us realize this was the right place. Last year students from Chalmers constructed a durable and successful school building, and we wanted to keep this great collaboration going on.
A slum school faces many difficulties and challenges. In a place like this it’s not possible to try and solve a problem when you don’t see it, we needed to be there every day to face the problems. One of the main problems in slums is that there’s a lack of spaces designed for kids; they are not prioritized. That’s why we wanted to give them a space where they can freely and safely be what they are: kids.
So what do kids need in Kisumu? Since it’s always around 30 degrees, they need some shelter from the sun. The classrooms are extremely hot during daytime since there’s no ventilation, the roof is made of metal sheets, and there’s just so many kids stuffed in such a small space! Can you imagine how hard it is to focus on school when sitting in this scorching heat?
We designed and built a playground, with space for outdoor teaching, shaded by a roof shaped as a cloud. It doesn’t have walls, to maximize cross ventilation, but also to create an open space that welcomes everyone. A place where they can eat, study and have lectures, but also do creative things like performances, public speaking, play and just be with each other. Furthermore, this have been an amazing experience and we learned about the importance of connect to the locals and being close to the problem while building in a context where there is no electricity or freshwater.

We wanted to give the children of the Future Hope Academy an open creative space with thermal comfort, daylight and flexibility – A cloud for creativity! Hopefully this small change will plant a seed that inspires and develops the area in the future, that is what these amazing kids deserve!

The kids and ASF volounteers
children helping in works
playground items
Kisumi schoolyard playground structure
kid playing
playground structure
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