"Ark Soaring in the Sky"
A School for Orphans in Thailand
by Kikuma Watanabe

Kikuma Watanabe is an associate professor at Kochi University of Technology in Japan and is responsible for the overall design of this project. The owner is Kagayaku Inochi (glorious life), a Japanese NPO.

This school for orphans is in Sangkhlaburi village, Thailand. Sangkhlaburi village is located near the borderline between Thailand and Myanmar. In this area there are a lot of poor people who immigrated from Myanmar. Also there are minority people, such as Mon, Karen and so on. They are so poor that they cannot bring up their children by themselves. In addition, many orphans live there. This school aims to provide sustainable poverty alleviation in the area.

To provide a good future for the children, we hoped that the school would be designed as the realization of their dreams. So, at first the teacher asked the children to draw the dream of the school building. One of them drew a flying ship as his dream. We adapted his idea, and tried to translate the drawing into architecture.

We designed the school with two architectural components: One is the earthbag building and the other is a light steel building with bamboo and grass roof. The earthbag building is set on ground floor and the steel building is for the upper floor.

Three earthbag domes stand on the ground , and support the upper steel buildings. The steel building has a big triangular roof with grass.

The earthbag domes are thought of as a "launching pad" that supplies the ship with the "energy of Mother Earth." The upper steel building is thought of as the ship that is soaring in the sky.

The earthbag domes fill the children with warmth, so they can feel healing. These earthbag domes function as both prayer room and classroom.

In the steel building with grass roof a good breeze blows through, so they can be comfortable. This part functions as a Buddhist room and classroom. The upper floor connects to the lower earthbag domes through two openings.

After completion of the school, the children enjoy studying, playing, and praying everyday. They are very proud of this building filled with their dreams. We hope that this unique building leads the children to a bright future.

Construction was done by D Environmental Design System Laboratory, local carpenters who were Garian, minor mountain people, and children in this school.

First floor area is 41.8 m2.

Second floor area is 62.8 m2.


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