InsideOut is an earth school prototype, designed by the young Italian architects Andrea Tabocchini and Francesca Vittorini and built by hand in just 60 days in Yeboahkrom, a rural village in Ghana where the wind had destroyed the only school in the area.
The story of this project is rather unusual but really full of energy and passion, and surely worth sharing!
Currently, Andrea is an architect and engineer, working in Rotterdam at OMA. Winner of several international competitions, Andrea has built various projects in different countries, he worked also in Tokyo and Olot. Francesca graduated in a dual master degree in Architecture and Building Engineering in Italy, and during her studies she took part in several study activities in Spain and China.
But let’s take a step back, when Andrea and Francesca were just two university students.
In 2016, they participated in an international competition and, thanks to an innovative design, they won.
Oddly, that was also the moment when the issues began, since they also had to acquire funding and manpower to build the school. To solve these issues, they decided to organize a workshop in Ghana to be held during the summer. So, they first promoted it through a Facebook page and launched an open call to find volunteers. Among loads of application they received, they created a team of 30 volunteers from 20 different countries bringing them together with the local population to build the school together.
Once there, difficulties were not over. Since no electricity was available on site, and the budget of the project was extremely low (you can read more info about it at the end of this article), they decided to build the school completely by hand, using only materials available on the site, as earth, wood and vegetation. They moved 58ooo kg of soil by hand and planed 3 km of wood with only two hand planers.
All these difficulties have been transformed into opportunities to come up with another lively idea, that is, conducting a sustainable design that merges architecture and landscape. As explained by Andrea in a recent interview “local materials such as rammed earth have usually been associated with “poor architecture” and often abandoned in favor of more “modern” construction materials, such as cement blocks or other industrial materials. These industrialized materials are expensive and provide poor environmental performance for the region. This was one of the main reasons for us to embrace local traditional materials. We also tried to introduce more comfort through environmental design. For example, we tried to make the building as open as possible, maximizing the amount of natural light, generating natural ventilation, and creating a new relationship between the indoor and outdoor spaces”.
Thanks to the effort he and Francesca made in studying as many precedents as possible and through a number of accuracies, they have been able to build an affordable and easily replicable project that values the local knowhow and pushes its limits further, offering an alternative to the standard, introverted and unhealthy classrooms.
Further than that, since the school was built together with the local population and volunteers from all over the world, during the construction there were also a number of “unexpected clashes”, because of language barriers and divergences due to different past experiences, what Andrea has called “positive misunderstandings”. All these issues eventually led to “to the development of new and better ideas” and constituted an outstanding added value to the whole project.
And for what it concerns fundings? (Unfortunately, money is always the hardest issue to face!)
This non-profit project had been completely financed by volunteers’ donations, given as a participation fee, for a total amount of 12 000 €. Andrea’s words perfectly summarize the very meaning of this project: “Working with communities helps us understand unfamiliar contexts and exposes us to different social/economic/environmental challenges in which creativity emerges. Collaboration has been the foundation for our profession. Today Internet and technology provide new platforms for passionate people from different backgrounds to share ideas and create new avenues for collaboration. This is one of the greatest opportunities for our generation, and I am very looking forward to keep testing the potential of contamination between different fields (and different professions) as much as possible – also in different contexts and different kind of projects”.
InsideOut is an earth school prototype that received the 2017 Archi-World Academy Award and The Plan Award. It has been listed by Designboom as one of the top 10 schools and educational buildings of 2017 all over the world. It was designed by two architects and engineers aged 25 and constructed by hand in 60 days, with just 12 000 euro, thanks to the effort of a team composed by locals and young volunteers from 20 different countries. This is the simple recipe that made all this possible.
It sounds amazing… and it is!
InsideOut is also one of the name we can give to our future.
“Future” as our right, our responsibility, our creation. Where the “we” are the young generations and particularly the new lively and original ideas they can give life to.
Alice Cavalieri is a PhD student in Political Science, European Politics and International Relation at Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa, Italy). Her research interests concern mainly budgetary policies and the allocation of financial resources among policy sectors in a comparative perspective, focusing in particular on the decision-making process. She is also Network Coordinator of SDSN Youth Italy and the Mediterranean region.