Na Khoang School: Built by and for the community

Institutional, Online Exclusive Feature / 2022

Na Khoang School: Built by and for the community

October 21, 2022

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In rural areas, it is important to provide safe spaces for children to receive education—including fulfilling children’s need for play and interaction, be it with their peers or with members of their community. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

The Tu Nang commune in Son La District, located at Vietnam’s northwestern region and bordering Laos, is home to the Tai (Thái) ethnic group. More than just an education facility for children, Na Khoang School aims to provide a space for the community, fostering a sense of belonging and care from the moment of its construction.

Blooming together on-site

The school design was inspired by flowers that bloomed in the mountainous area. Each roof was slanted at different inclinations, invoking a diverse and rhythmic ‘dance’.

Focusing on locally available materials, the walls were made of unburnt (sun-dried) terracotta bricks from degraded soil in the region—making use of resources that were considered as waste. Local workers dried the soil using sun exposure, then placed it into a crushing machine. The crushed soil mixture is then vertically compressed using a hydraulic machine. After some time for maintenance (quality checking), the bricks are ready to use.

These bricks were combined with pebbles, which involved the cooperation of the whole community. Skilled local people joined the construction groups, while hundreds of other residents joined hands in helping carry the sacks of pebbles from the Sap stream 5 kilometres away, bringing it to the construction site for their children’s school.

“At first, the local people did not understand the purpose of gathering these materials until they saw the unique walls of unburnt terracotta bricks and cobblestones. The joy of working together has strengthened the community relationship and created jobs for people in Na Khoang commune,” said the architects.

Not only do the locally sourced and processed materials reduce the carbon footprint, it also improves heat insulation in the building, allowing for a balanced indoor climate. Classes are kept cool in summer and warm during winter, and this “creates intense excitement for the children”, said the architects.

Flexible spatiality

The selected site for the school is located on an axis that embraces the path to the centre of the commune, facing the mountain. A flexible spatial organisation between the classrooms and open spaces, playgrounds, and gardens allow it to stand in harmony with Nature, ensuring ample natural ventilation and lighting.

The elementary school is arranged along the side corridors, while the preschool part is arranged in clusters of the middle corridors. They are interconnected by a stone stage that is stepped and fluidly shaped, mimicking its surrounding terraced fields.

This central stage is provided as a community space for the village, where people have participated in after-school meetings, gatherings, sports and cultural festivities.


Project Name
Na Khoang Kindergarten and Primary School

Tu Nang Commune, Yen Chau District, Son La Province, Vietnam


Completion Date
December 2020

Site Area           
1079.4 square metres

Gross Floor Area            
336 square metres

Number of Rooms         

Building Height
1 storey

People’s Committee of Yen Chau District, Son La Province

MIDAS Foundation, Vn Help, Gieo Tin Yeu

Architecture Firm
1+1>2 Architects

Principal Architects       
Hoang Thuc Hao; Vu Xuan Son; Nguyen Hanh Le

Main Contractor            
Nguyen Gia Phong

Site Work
Hoang Văn Minh; Nguyen Cong Dinh; Local people

Civil & Structural Engineers       
Nguyen Gia Phong; Hoang Van Minh; Nguyen Van Dinh

Trieu Chien; Vu Xuan Son; courtesy of 1+1>2 Architects

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