START DATEdel Proyecto

JUN 2014



The project

Let's build a school

Clasificación: Educational equipment

Área: 1900 m2

Ubicación: Daga-Kamanar, Thionck Essyl, Dep. de Bignona, Ziguinchor, Senegal

Estado del proyecto: Under construction



This first project, and the beginning of foundawtion, is born of the dawoffice architecture studio in Barcelona and the Senegalese town of Thionck Essyl.

“And why Senegal?” you ask.

The world is very big and still there are many basic needs to cover, thus one can only start with what they know.

Due to other cooperative projects, we were able to get to know this part of Casamance first-hand.

We started learning from within, living with its people, sharing their homes, their food and their lives.

In 2014, already completely in love with Casamance, we started to analyse the needs of the Bolouf region under the guidance of the people of Thionck Essyl and representatives of the region.

Thionck Essyl communityUBICACIÓN



1900 m2


And why a school?

History shows us that health and education are primordial goals on the way to becoming a welfare state.

One of the main problems in rural Senegal is the access to education through lack of educational facilities which means that young people have to move to the cities in order to continue their studies – something that few families can allow to happen. Thionck Essyl is the largest rural population in the Bolouf region, therefore the problem is most pressing there.

With more than 1,300 students and one single secondary school built in 1985, these facilities have been too small for a growing population for years. Despite a ratio of more than 50 students per class, many young people are still left out through lack of space.

In the face of this situation the best thing we can do is to share our knowledge. So, together with representatives of the community, we defined a programme and started to design a second CEM (secondary school) in Thionck Essyl.

Thanks to a close collaboration with the Thionck Essyl community and its political representatives, the city has assigned a two hectare plot of public land to the building of an educational facility.

Lets' build a school

With this project not only do we want to build a school, but we have turned the construction process into a training ground in itself.

“Hacemos una escuela” is the expression of a group desire to produce a positive outcome through a collective learning experience. We are not doing it for Thionck Essyl, but WITH Thionck Essyl.

Throughout the four year duration of this project, the people of Thionck Essyl will have participated directly in the building of not only the school but also a space for meeting, learning and socialising for the whole community.

The school

The project adapts to the needs and economic situation of the people of the region and responds to the climatic conditions, providing a sustainable system.

This means making the local population aware of the potential of traditional building materials, as well as what the structural and architectural methods of their own cultural legacy is worth.

The programme of needs is driven by the principles of a design that guarantees climatic comfort and a low cost build. This is achieved by extracting the most out of local materials and the working potential of the local community.

It is a constructive system designed as an example that helps to reinforce confidence in traditional local materials, improving production processes and building using simple techniques that require renewed understanding.

The project is intended to be a system that is adaptable over time: they are modules that can be arranged on a grid which will allow the school to grow by building new ‘Awlas’ (classrooms) when needed.

The trees give value to the project and become design elements in themselves, along with patios/squares for each school year group. This type of architectural plan around a patio reminds us of the way that traditional family buildings were organised, where the shade of a tree and open space created a meeting place to come together amongst all the daily family activities.

The new CEM will have 4 year groups. Each one of them will have 4 ‘Awlas’ (classrooms) which will be located around a tree. As well as these 16 Awlas, the school will have a communal building with the Biology classroom, the IT room, the library and the staffroom. On the same premises, there will be a volleyball court and a football pitch.


The most abundant material in the region is without shadow of a doubt clay, therefore it is to be used to make a quality building material for the school.

With the clay we produced compressed earth blocks (CEBs) which are made up of clay, earth and 8% cement which works as a stabiliser to lend much more resistance to the material. These blocks are made onsite using a manual press. Using this manual press avoids the need to cook the blocks which in turn helps to save energy resources.

The CEBs’ best structural strength is compression. That is why we use the ‘Volta’ (vault) system to build our Awlas (classrooms). This is a basic structural component, typical of our construction heritage and meets the requirements of our project perfectly.

Thanks to the porosity of the CEB we are able to produce the ‘botijo effect’: Cross ventilation and the orientation (north-south) of the buildings which stops the sun’s rays getting in achieve a comfortable climate without the need for machine-powered air-conditioning systems.

The two facades of the Awlas are wooden latticework, which allows both light and air circulation at all times.

As the vault building material is not completely impermeable, it needs something extra to protect against the rainy seasons. In local architectural vernacular, this protection came from straw covers. Due to the high level of maintenance that this type of cover requires, we have decided to use corrugated sheets to complete the waterproofing of the Awlas.

Technical documentation

Here you can download more in-depth information about the project, from a social and economic context to architectural details.

Technical Information
Phase 01Complete

Awla prototype

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Phase 02Complete


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Three Awlas and a patio for the 6th grade

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Four Awlas and a patio for the 5th grade

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Four Awlas and a patio for the 4th grade

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Four Awlas and a patio for the 3rd grade

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Perimeter Wall

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Communal building. Access to the school

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Sports Pitches and Urbanisation

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