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Aga Khan Award for Architecture Finalist: The Green School
Amanda Reed, 26 May 10

The Green School has been named a finalist in the 2010 Aga Khan Awards for Architecture (AKAA), which honors projects that exhibit architectural excellence as well as improve people's overall quality of life. The Green School is a model of both architectural excellence and social service. Comprised of a campus of buildings all built with bamboo, the Green School serves as a learning laboratory for bamboo construction and architectural expression. Additionally, the entire campus is managed with a focus on sustainability; according to their website, they strive to have the "lowest carbon footprint of any international school anywhere," which is partially made possible by their extensive use of locally grown bamboo, their on-campus food production, and plans for power generation on site. Finally, the school also serves their local and global community through educating both Balinese and international students to be future leaders in sustainability. The curriculum is based on hands-on studies of nature, ecology, the environment, sustainability, and creative arts with the aim that students will mature as stewards of the environment.

The AKAA website for the Green School has a good summary of its origins and architectural features:

Environmentalists and designers John and Cynthia Hardy wanted to motivate communities to live sustainably. Part of that effort was to show people how to build with sustainable materials, namely bamboo. They established the Green School, and its affiliates: the Meranggi Foundation, which develops plantations of bamboo plants through presenting bamboo seedlings to local rice farmers; and PT Bambu, a for-profit design and construction company that promotes the use of bamboo as a primary building material, in an effort to avoid the further depletion of rainforests. The Green School, a giant laboratory built by PT Bambu, is located on a sustainable campus straddling both sides of the Ayung River in Sibang Kaja, Bali, within a lush jungle with native plants and trees growing alongside sustainable organic gardens. The campus is powered by a number of alternative energy sources, including a bamboo sawdust hot water and cooking system, a hydro-powered vortex generator and solar panels. Campus buildings include classrooms, gym, assembly spaces, faculty housing, offices, cafes and bathrooms. A range of architecturally significant spaces from large multi-storey communal gathering places to much smaller classrooms are a feature of the campus. Local bamboo, grown using sustainable methods, is used in innovative and experimental ways that demonstrate its architectural possibilities. The result is a holistic green community with a strong educational mandate that seeks to inspire students to be more curious, more engaged and more passionate about the environment and the planet.

The builder of the Green School, PT Bambu, as well as the Meranggi Foundation, believe bamboo is an important means by which we can address global climate concerns. They seek to change perceptions about bamboo away from the view that bamboo is only a traditional material used in small structures to the view that it is a strong and versatile building material suitable for modern applications. Here are just a few of the benefits of bamboo advertised on their websites:

  • Certain timber bamboos have better tensile strength than iron or steel on a strength per weight ratio.
  • Bamboo is extremely fast growing. It can be harvested in just 3-5 years as opposed to more than 20 years for most tropical hardwoods.
  • Bamboo is earthquake and cyclone resistant.

The Heart of School building is the Green School's newest structure, and is the subject of all the images shown in this post. According to the designers the three interconnected spirals that encompass the building will stand over 20 meters high. Additionally, the building will have 2000 square meters of floor space and house the school's library, computer room, meeting spaces, exhibition halls, and offices. The bamboo structure is an architectural delight, showcasing the strength and beauty of 2,630 bamboo poles!


If you'd like to help the Green School with a donation of time or money (you can sponsor an Indonesian child to attend the school or buy a bamboo pole for use in constructing the Heart of School building) see the organization's donations page.

For more images of the Green School see greenschool.org or ptbambu.com.

Click here to see all 19 finalists in the 2010 Aga Khan Awards, which include a wetlands design, housing and village projects, more schools, a mosque, a factory, and a museum. The winner will be announced in October 2010.

About the Aga Khan Award for Architecture: It was established in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence, thereby enhancing the understanding and appreciation of Islamic culture as expressed through architecture. Since it was launched, over 100 projects have received the award and more than 7,500 building projects have been documented in the fields of contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, historic preservation, reuse and area conservation, landscape design, and improvement of the environment. Click here for more.

Photos of the Heart of School building exterior and interior roof detail via greenschool.org; photograph of construction of the Heart of School building via ptbambu.com; image of site plan via Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

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