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.
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.
Na Khoang Kindergarten and Primary School
Tu Nang Commune, Yen Chau District, Son La Province, Vietnam
1079.4 square metres
Gross Floor Area
336 square metres
Number of Rooms
People’s Committee of Yen Chau District, Son La Province
MIDAS Foundation, Vn Help, Gieo Tin Yeu
Hoang Thuc Hao; Vu Xuan Son; Nguyen Hanh Le
Nguyen Gia Phong
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