Barouk Village (Chouf), Lebanon, 2018-2019
With Lebanon continuing to struggle in providing adequate education for youth across the country, most students are subjected to the discouragingly deplorable conditions of the nation’s public-school system. Thermal discomfort, severe overcrowding, and off-putting design make public schools inhospitable for youth and continue to severely limit the potential of students all over the country. The recent influx of Syrian refugees as well as the limited funding available for their cause has all but overwhelmed many public schools, causing students to turn away from education. With the belief in the ability of design to foster positive learning environments, DI-Lab approached the Barouk Public School with the vision of rehabilitating the educational system through design innovation.
The DI-Lab team began work through a thorough analysis of existing site conditions. Simulations and extensive data collection informed by interviews with the faculty and games conducted with students highlighted user preferences and zones of interest across the multistory school. With the vision of creating an educational environment that could meet the needs of the 21st century student, the team worked within such parameters to promote student-centered learning through innovative and sustainable classroom design. Reconfiguring the layout of the classrooms was key to the achievement of such goals and was first addressed through the clustering of classrooms for each age cycle. Such a design strategy promotes intergenerational dialogue among students and informs a dynamic exchange of both ideas and experiences. Enlarging corridors at the entrance of classrooms was also key in promoting peer to peer information exchange. By noting this natural tendency to gather at the entrance of classrooms, design encourages conversation through the generous expansion of such spaces. Designing areas for the arts, labs, and media activity was perhaps most important in improving the livelihoods of students through the development of their artistic and vocational skills.
Design for student centered learning extended well beyond the classroom and into the creation of inclusive playscapes. An extension of the indoor playground into the outdoor amphitheater allows space for creative performances while ensuring accessibility for disabled persons through the design of ramps and promenades. Outdoor spaces are divided into multiple, activity-based zones, and protected by trees specifically chosen for their windbreaking and shading capabilities. Designed with sustainability in mind, extensive studies were undertaken throughout the process to ensure optimal climatic conditions. With students regularly discouraged by unfavorable levels of heat and glare, rehabilitation was carried out with materials capable of correcting visual and thermal discomfort. Horizontal fins were installed on the south façade to diffuse light within classrooms while avoiding glare and absorbing heat. The installation of new windows along this façade also help heat up the classroom during colder months, thus decreasing fuel consumption while ensuring thermal comfort. The addition of windows also promotes cross ventilation throughout the spaces as a means of maintaining manageable temperatures during the summer. The simple addition of aluminum sheeting along the concrete shelfs help to reflect southern light thus reducing the deviation in daylighting levels while optimizing light distribution. Such diffused lighting strategies were also applied in the basement through the installation of reflective materials and colors.
Improving learning conditions was therefore achieved through a comprehensive restructuring and rehabilitation of the school, which also fulfilled the requirements set by The Ministry of Education in Lebanon. Through such efforts, DI-Lab proves that sustainability and innovation in design are therefore key to the improvement of learning environments. Research and data collection paired with sensitive and inclusive design rehabilitate the Barouk School into a positive educational space capable of fostering the aspirations its students. Both extremely cost-effective and sustainable for years to come, the design strategies make the most of existing conditions while strategically adjusting them in favor of users and the surrounding environment. The success of the Barouk School project sets a precedent for possibility within the public-school system and has been exceptionally well-received by students and teachers alike.
Architectural Design: Karim Najjar, Sarah Rita Kattan, Ahmad Nouraldeen
Technical Consultants: Civil Minds (Anwar Antoun), Structural Engineering Hussein Ali Chehadi, Mechanical Engineering Ahmad A. Karaki, Electrical Engineering
Client: GIZ (Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit) QUDRA Program
Pictures: Lea Najjar