architecture : urban : visual culture

Wind-Catch! – Elementary School, Egypt

Anna Lukács's thesis is a plan of an elementary school in Egypt, which it is unique not only in its application of local architectural solutions, but also in the use of material and in the work of the wind to ventilate and cool the building.

The subject of my diploma: elementary school. The site is in Luxor, Egypt, more precise: New Gurna village that is located on the West Bank of the Nile. It was the main scene of the Egyptian architect called Hassan Fathy. Most of the completed buildings have now been partially or completely damaged. UNESCO is also aware of this problem and a World Heritage project is underway.

I have a personal attachment to the topic. In 2017, I spent 4 weeks on the site and took part of the research and survey.

The site: is located next to the mosque and the khan (commercial building). This was part of the city plan, but it has never been constructed, so it is currently empty. The unit of the two buildings and the site creates a square in the middle, that was planned by Fathy, as the main square. Therefore, it needed special attention during the planning.

The concept is based on two principles:

First, utility. It is the most important part that we need to pay attention to. We have to give the children the chance to be able to study under good conditions. Knowing that the climate is hot and dry, we must pay attention to the cooling system of the building. My aim was to use tools of sustainable architecture to keep the building cooler in an eco-friendly way. This contains elements like wind-towers, that can catch the wind and make it run over the building, perforated walls that also help providing the airflow through the rooms, thick wall structure that prevents the hot air to get through the walls during the day, roofs outside that can provide shadow and defend the walls from direct solar radiation. The orientation of the building is N-S, the walls facing to East and West have minimal surface. This is what led me to place the functions to where they are now.

The second principle is connected to the name of Hassan Fathy. The plan he had for this site was never completed, but his memory is important for the inhabitants of the village. This is how the idea came: why not use the outline that he drew to create the building here so it will remind all of us of his work, his imagination, it will keep his memory for the future generation.

Setup of the building:

Due to the location, the planning program is very different from the structure of Hungarian schools. In Egypt, 3 million children are born each year, which also affects the structure of the school system. Due to the large number of children, the children study in 2 shifts per day, in morning and afternoon groups. The program requires only the most necessary items due to overcrowding: 6 (8) classrooms, info room, teachers’ and director's office, library, restroom, courtyard. The size of the site and its maximum utilization made it possible to add more functions to the list: workshop room, administrative office, storage and a sports field. The school consists of 3 structurally independent blocks and the courtyards connecting them. Two of the units give place for functions connected directly to education: classrooms, teachers’ room, etc. and the third is for „beside education” time. The hot, dry climate determines the design of the building: out of the functional rooms, there are no enclosed spaces, corridors, lounges. All the hours out of the classes, the students spend outside, on covered terraces and courtyards. Students do not eat at school, a turn is only in the morning or only in the afternoon, so they spend lunchtime at home, after or before school.

The cooling of the building is based on passive ventilation system. The main tools of this are the wind-towers, that appeared earlier in the history of Egyptian architecture. The importance of the wind tower is, that when oriented in the main direction of the wind, it is able to catch the wind and lead it like a chimney into the interior so that air can circulate there. As the result of the flow, a cooling air circulates in the interior, helping to evaporate the moisture on the skin. Studies have shown that with the use of wind towers, the internal temperature can be lowered by up to 10°C compared to the outside. By using the towers we create a better inner comfort during the most unbearably warm days, that helps students and teachers stay focused. The other key element of this system is the perforation on the upper part of the wall, through which the wind and used air can leave the interior. The combination of perforation and towers ensures a continuous airflow, even when the doors and windows are closed.

Building materials:

Only the known, used and favored by the locals materials were used, in terms of functionality, structure, financing and appearance.

Closure:

Planning required a lot of research work in terms of functionality, design, structure and sustainability. By paying attention to each one by one and all together as well, the school has become a building that gives benefits to the dwellers in the future.

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