TE AOTEA POHUTUKAWA WHARE KORERO
THE GREAT BARRIER ISLAND POHUTUKAWA SCHOOL OF LEARNING
MULBERRY GROVE SCHOOL - CLASSROOM MAKEOVER
We choose to collaborate with Mulberry Grove School, Great Barrier Island New Zealand to design their classroom for the future. The beautifully rugged Great Barrier Island is geographically isolated to the east of mainland New Zealand and is the home to only 800 residents. There is no mains power, water or sewage networks so we need to build off the grid. This promotes designing an autonomous classroom that principally could then be adapted to any small community in the world. Mulberry Grove School is located on a site looking west on a spectacular pebble stone beach. We want to reconnect the school with its beach side context. We also need to consider rising oceans and tides in the lifespan of the building.
The school has 28 students ranging from ages 5 to 12years old taught in two classrooms by two teachers. We propose to replace the classroom currently occupied by 8 children between the ages of 7-12. This is the senior class and we want to give them every opportunity and incentive to succeed when they leave MGS and go to boarding school on the mainland. GBI has three primary/intermediate schools and no secondary education facilities. From here the children and must attend boarding schools or their families leave the island. This is a large cause of the population decline over the last decade. It is important to entice people to send their young children here and young families to make the move to live on Great Barrier Island stimulating the local economy. They also are poorly funded because of the low number of students and so it’s hard to provide resources to meet the kids needs in a rapidly changing world.
During our stay and through implementing a number of adapted Curriki Design Lessons we came to understand their special classroom circumstances more clearly. We asked the children what was most important to them in classroom. Technology was an important feature as it is crucial to staying in touch with the outside world. Quiet retreat spaces came out as their other main concerns. Having children of such a varied age group in one classroom makes it more difficult to control the education structure and maintain a peaceful environment where everyone is happy and able to learn. It was important help them design a classroom which they want to spend time in. Children also learn to interact with and befriend kids in different ages group, which is positive aspect and we don’t want to take this unique learning methodology and fruitful experience away from them. They also wanted a constant comfortable temperature, abundant natural day lighting and for the building to take advantage of their special beautiful view. The children designed their own classroom each and this helped us to understand their needs and wants in a fun way where they also learnt a lot.
The design lessons inspired us to design an adaptable building that would support their unique learning needs. To do this we looked at Design Share’s idea of ‘Learning Studios’. We wanted the building to offer as much as it can back to the whole local community of Mulberry Grove.
LEARNING STUDIO SPACES
Design Share talk about the idea of a ‘Learning Studio’ as a new classroom model that consists of three kinds of educational spatial components. The first is the ‘Campfire Space’ where learning takes place in a mono-directional lecture style environment. The second is ‘Watering Hole space’. This refers to spaces where children can learn from their peers while doing class group projects, socializing, and general interactive activities. This space can often be used as transitional space. The third kind of learning environment within ‘Learning Studios’ is ‘Cave Space’. This is a place for introverted learning such as unaccompanied quiet reading, researching or small relaxation spaces. Learning Studio’s support wireless computer networks so that any space outside or in can become a place of learning. The need to be able to do different things with kids who have quite different needs is crucial to maintaining the high standard to learning they endeavor to pursuit.
In our design the Campfire Space is centralized with sheltered but external decked Watering Hole Space surrounding it to engage with the extraordinary environment. There is a cave space on ground level and on the upper level. This layout enables maximum adaptability of the building without sacrificing engaging learning environment for children. It can transform at night to a GBI conference facility as locals are very knowledgeable about sustainable building and energy conservation and therefore have a lot to teach outsiders. It would also be a place for the community to come together to learn from outside specialists in any field. Inter GBI schools dances, performances, assemblies, weekend galas or produce swaps are all possible events we have considered to cater for. Many that could have the potential to generate wealth economically and in the strength of the community and bring mainlanders over to economically stimulate local businesses in the off seasons.
So that the classroom is of value to the local community in as many ways as possible we decided to apply the idea of the Marae to the Learning Studio. A Marae is the name for the traditional New Zealand indigenous Maori meeting house. It is a large multi-functional open building used for a variety of community events and is a place where everybody comes together, building a sense of their people.
The school is the heart of the community. The public attends school assemblies and the school grounds are a meeting place for locals. The school currently has no place where they can hold events such as performances, prize-giving’s or interior assemblies apart from in their small relocate-able classroom that are not designed for this purpose.
To future proof our design we decide to reconsider the layout of the school that consists fully of small re-locatable buildings. We plan to relocate some of these buildings to create a centre for the school, and therefore the community. This new layout also allows for the school to grow and accommodate what the future may bring.
LOCAL LABOR AND MATERIALS
We designed the building using a balance of local labor and materials with materials and specialists brought in to the island. Despite their green image, Great Barrier Island currently has no recycling facilities because of the costs to transport it back to the mainland. There is a refuse dump where piles of old white ware, tires, car parts, house hold and green waste lie as a potential source of innovative material. Locals get crafty and try to reuse as much as possible to avoid excess rubbish. Local materials such as waste like tires, plastic and glass bottles used in our design could be substituted for any number of materials that a community has as a resource. We also wanted to create a building that the community would feel is truly theirs. We plan to do this by having elements of the building built by the local community, children and builders. Tires are used packed with dirt for the thicker centre wall. This can be built by the community giving them a sense of ownership and the building a sense of belonging to the final project. The solid walls of the building are constructed first and are made from local mud brick with rubbish such as glass bottles for light transmitting decoration and plastic bottles and aluminum cans are used for air pockets within the walls to help it breathe and keep the inside humidity controlled.
We chose to use a balance of local labor and materials with brought in labor specialists and materials to achieve the best result for the community and the school and the environment now and in the future.
The school currently has solar panels to generate electricity but presently can’t meet the energy demand of the school. A diesel powered generator produces the excess energy needed to meet school requirements.
We choose to use integrated solar technology in the form of semi-transparent printed photovoltaic glass as part of the roof as we see this as the future direction of smart sustainable architecture and want to set a good example for local people building their own residences on the island and mainland. The building should be able to be read as a 3dimensional textbook for the children about the way buildings work, and are built. The school also uses a Wormerator sewage control system and we propose to continue with this as it has proved to be successful.
• Rammed earth for most walls
• Old glass bottles to let colorful light through the rammed earth walls.
• Plastic or aluminum waste containers for air packers in earth construction.
• Broken pottery, ceramics, bottle tops etc for mosaics on the earth construction as there is a thriving local pottery and craft scene.
• Old tires pack with local earth built by locals for centre wall. (In principal this could be any local abundant waste material covered in a cement/earth mix)
• Double glazed windows and doors.
• Locally sourced timber for tree-like truss system.
• The semi-transparent printed photovoltaic glass on the roof generates energy and recreates the atmosphere of being underneath a tree
• Metal sheeting for remaining roof structure. (This could be carefully constructed from recycled metal from discarded white ware)
THE POHUTUKAWA TREE
Our classroom community centre is based on the idea of the tree is a meeting place, a place to share knowledge and a lovely place to enjoy. Our team decided that our design for the classroom of the future would be based on the timeless idea of learning about your environment by being submersed in it. We must teach kids from an early age to have respect for their environment and its precious resources and our project hopes to support this idea. The Pohutukawa tree is a native New Zealand tree found on the site. It has a very long life span up to 800 years and adapts to the site as it grows. We see sustainability as being about the ability to accommodate and deal with the future effectively whatever it may bring. The name Pohutukawa means drenched in mist and refers to the red mist of flowers that cover the tree in the summer months.
We wanted to create a landmark building for the area to invite social activity and learning from local residents and entice people from mainland cities and abroad to visit and stimulate local economics in the off seasons.
Our classroom aims to be a learning environment for not just the children attending the school but for everyone from Mulberry Grove and afar. Te Aotea Pohutukawa Whare Korero is a place for meeting and sharing knowledge and the design endeavors to support this special community environment and what it has the potential to offer.