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Community School in Darmang, Ghana
Damang, Ghana
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image: Ivan Ralis | © all rights reserved
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Category:
infrastructure
Phase:
in use
Design:
Architects: Laura Gomez Agudelo, Sinisa Bodroћic, Ivan Ralis, We-Building e.V.
Updated:
18 March 2024
introduction
In the rural village of Darmang in Ghana, predominantly inhabited by farmers, many of the houses have no electricity, share a public toilet and have no water supply besides communal water wells. The village serves as the nucleus for numerous smaller communities situated approximately a half-hour's walk away, which consist mostly of mud huts built by the villagers themselves. In 2014, the village chiefs, representing the local community of Darmang, in collaboration with the local NGO VPWA, recognized the necessity for a new school to enhance educational standards in the area. 
The school

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Project development. Stage 1
Based largely on the fact that we were building in open terrain, the main decision was to try the clustered approach which departs from the common longitudinal school layout present almost everywhere in the region. The final complex should consist of 12-15 identical, 7x7m units, grouped to form inner courtyards, each belonging to a certain age group. A project like that would be more flexible and could be built in phases, even altered, if necessary, without changing the basic concept. By dividing a typically big school building into smaller parts, a different environment and a sense of scale is created, resembling more a small city than a school.
ideation

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Site plan

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Façade

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Plan of the school unit

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Floor plan

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Basic components of a building

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Project development. Stage 2
In December 2015 the team spent 5 weeks in Ghana further defining the project with the local partner, researching the prices and materials in the vicinity of the site, but also travelling and getting to know the whole country a bit better. All this gave a clearer picture on the quality and availability of potential construction materials. Wood was of a pretty high quality and available for a relatively cheap price. Roofing options were almost exclusively limited to metal sheets. We quickly gave up on using the proper damp-proofing because of the price and decided to do it the way it's usually done locally, just with a thin layer of PE-film. 
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materials and building techniques
Most importantly, during this time we got in touch with Samuel who was doing his own version of CSEB (compressed stabilised earth blocks) and trying to popularise them locally. The compressed blocks were introduced way back in the 1950s in South America, as a slightly more modern earth construction technique. In Ghana though, a country with a rich tradition of earth architecture which was still common in rural areas, building with earth is often associated with poverty. We decided to use the opportunity that someone living one hour away from the construction site had the knowledge and equipment to do these blocks.
Samuel at work

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Compressed stabilized earth blocks

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CSEB wall

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Roof insulation

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Roof insulation

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Roof insulation

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project management
The local contractors brought in some of their experienced craftsmen (mason, carpenters, steel bender), but the main working power were the local men from the village who applied for the job. Project management was done from Berlin via WhatsApp and E-mail, from where all the budget and design adjustments were done. One or two of our volunteers were always present on site to coordinate the project and help with the supervision of the construction site.
Teamwork

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Teamwork

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Teamwork

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Teamwork

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Teamwork

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Teamwork

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structural and engineering solutions
Construction commenced in September 2017 and concluded after approximately six months. Everything worked out in the end, to everyone's satisfaction. The school officially opened its doors in September 2018. It was a simple program, featuring six classrooms and toilet facilities constructed in the first phase.  However, it marked a significant milestone, enabling the local organization to start with the school operations and utilize portions of the existing youth center for a kindergarten.
Foundation construction

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Building frame construction

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Building frame construction

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Roof construction

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Construction process

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Construction process

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Construction process

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Construction process

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Building frame construction

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image gallery
The school

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The school

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School

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The school

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School

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School

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The school

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School

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School

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School

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Location
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