this school complex on the edge of the rainforest in northern brazil has been deemed the world’s best new building by a jury that included elizabeth diller and kazuyo sejima. the project, the result of a collaboration between two brazilian architecture firms, aleph zero and rosenbaum, recently won the RIBA international prize 2018 — an honor awarded every two years to a building that ‘exemplifies design excellence and architectural ambition, and delivers meaningful social impact.’

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © cristobal palma / estudio palma (also main image)



named ‘children village’ the complex provides boarding accommodation for 540 children aged between 13 and 18. pupils come from remote areas of the country, some traveling many hours by boat. the facility is is one of 40 schools run by the bradesco foundation, who provide education for children in rural communities across brazil.

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © leonardo finotti



throughout the project, aleph zero and rosenbaum worked closely with the school’s children and staff to understand different perspectives. the architects wanted to create an environment that could be a ‘home away from home’, where children could develop a strong sense of both individuality and belonging. replacing dormitories that accommodated 40 students, the new design provides smaller rooms for six children in a more intimate environment. as well as private spaces, public areas offer ample for space study, play, and relaxation.

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © cristobal palma / estudio palma



two large ‘villages’, one for male and one for female students, are placed at strategic points close to the site’s edges. 45 units for six students each are set together in groups of five and organized around three large courtyards filled with tropical vegetation. surrounding the sleeping areas, various zones — such as reading spaces and TV and playrooms — have been designed to improve pupils’ overall quality of life, while serving as complementary learning spaces.

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © cristobal palma / estudio palma



the building’s rough earth materiality, which involves local construction methods, performs well climatically and represents the connection of people and place. earth blocks composed of local soil were chosen for their optimal thermal properties, as well as their technical and aesthetic value.

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © leonardo finotti



glued laminated eucalyptus wood — known for its versatility and sustainability — supports a thin metallic roof following a regular grid of 5.9 x 5.9 meters. combining a contemporary aesthetic with traditional techniques, the scheme has been described by the judges as ‘reinventing brazilian vernacular.’

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © leonardo finotti



incredibly, despite the tropical climate, with summertime temperature in the mid-40 degrees, there was no need for air conditioning. the large canopy roof, the structure of which is made up of cross-laminated timber beams and columns, provides shading. meanwhile, the overhanging canopy creates an intermediary space, between inside and out, giving the effect of a large veranda overlooking the surrounding landscape.

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © leonardo finotti



‘beyond being a standout work of architecture, children village embodies the generosity of the bradesco foundation’s philanthropic mission to provide much-needed amenities to those who otherwise have limited access to schools,’ said elizabeth diller, on behalf of the grand jury. ‘aleph zero and rosenbaum have achieved a humble heroism, utilizing a sophisticated approach to detailing and construction that belies the fact that the building’s users are predominately teenagers, age 13-18, in a remote area in brazil.’

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © leonardo finotti



the RIBA international prize 2018 jury was comprised of architects elizabeth diller (DS+R), kazuyo sejima (SANAA), joshua bolchover (rural urban framework), gloria cabral (gabinete de arquitectura) and peter clegg (feilden clegg bradley studio). ‘children village’ was selected as the winner of the prize ahead of three other shortlisted entries: stefano boeri’s bosco verticale in milan; a new university campus in the heart of budapest by o’donnell + tuomey, and the toho gakuen school of music in tokyo by nikken sekkei.

children village brazil rosenbaum aleph zero
image © cristobal palma / estudio palma



project info:


architects: rosenbaum + aleph zero
wood structure design, fabrication and construction: ITA construtora
landscape design: raul pereira arquitetos associados
lighting design: lux projetos luminotécnicos
structural foundation: meirelles carvalho
acoustics and thermal insulation consulting: ambiental consultoria
mechanical and electrical engineering: lutie
concrete slabs: trima
construction: inova TS
interiors and furniture design: rosenbaum and fetiche design
location: formoso do araguaia, tocantins, brazil
client: bradesco foundation / canuanã school
area: 23,344.17 sqm

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