sustainable learning communities by traffic for one heart foundation eco village

sustainable learning communities by traffic for one heart foundation eco village


as part of the one heart foundation eco village international design competition 2016, trans-disciplinary studio traffic presents its shortlisted project entry for a learning community in kenya. the proposal demonstrates the impact a good design can have on children’s quality of life as well as the role of architecture in providing nurturing environments for abused and poor families.

Aerial view of the central open space, looking over the Dormitories, Multipurpose Hall, High School and Primary School



traffic‘s study of architecture in kenya has revealed a discernible lack of contemporary exemplars, despite many traditional precedents and building. designers attempt to integrate this project in the discourse surrounding the legitimacy, identity and possible direction for an architectural culture that critically extends the ethos of indigenous construction –  ones emerging from a grasp of materiality, climate and technique. in that sense, the proposal draws from a dynamic reading of the site and context.

view of the primary and high schools from the central playground

the learning community challenges traditional education by introducing several ideas pertinent to pedagogical models and environments. these are demonstrated by engaging with multiple hierarchies simultaneously. they include indoor /outdoor educational hubs, formal and self-directed learning, scalable spaces (for group activities or lectures), and breakout zones with habitable circulation throughout primary and secondary schools. all of them amplify a ‘between-ness’ and intersection of activities. while beneficial to the entire cohort, the program primarily addresses the low attendance rates of local children by encouraging new teaching methods and frameworks inhabit the building in various formats.

the language and articulation of surfaces is robust, realised via an innovative use of resilient local material. the location of buildings maintains visual connectivity between the various programs, yet still enables a sense of autonomy and privacy for each. the sequencing and transition of external lanes and courts recall the alleys of incremental settlements, boring through primary and high schools with their smooth continuous edge cast against the staggered arrangement of classrooms.

overview of the homes exploring the interconnectedness across living areas, courts and between residences



the studio also experiments with fluid surfaces and geometries, mathematically generating a sequence of lines and potentials. these are mapped through a close analysis of the site, specificities of the brief and response to existing tree cover. indeed, the structures and open spaces organize themselves across and around nodes of vortices in a tessellated design of ‘lines of force’ reacting to the presence and intensity of other focal points. the final effect develops spatial adjacencies and internal relationships between programs or define territories and boundaries.

interior view of the multipurpose hall and basketball court



homes also reflect traditional settlement patterns by extending the idea of a village through a series of domestic spaces. residences are deconstructed into clustered rooms around individual courtyards, in a pergola-like framework that shades walkways and merges patches of living areas. façades can be read as a series of ribbon walls set within the site’s dense foliage. the black and white surface along the site boundary evokes tribal patterns and  kenyan illustrations, abstracted through a pixelation of brickwork. such designs amplify spatial depth and convey a sense of rhythm.

each house is clustered around a courtyard and connected by passages to other residences



ideas of environmental and social sustainability are embedded in the project through passive techniques. for example, the deep external walls of the building are used as insulation for thermal mass. this also features as shading for learning spaces and seating, where windows are extruded into the surfaces. the separation of buildings channel wind while providing shade to the laneways and roofs collect rainwater that is harvested on site. the primary material for construction is local brick, one that can sustain local communities through sourcing and construction of the project. a critical aspect of sustainability is a continuous engagement with the local community, skills and crafts.

interior view of the high school and court from the informal areas and self-directed learning spaces

high school and primary school from the forest road

design process

ground floor plan

first floor plan



project info:


location: kakamega county, kenya 
practice: traffic
design team: ian nazareth, venkatesh natarajan, temitope adesina, winston shu you



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

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