Sra Pou Vocational School in Oudong, Cambodia by Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen, 2011.

A project that could easily fit within the vein of the books reviewed this week, this vocational school in the Cambodian village of Sra Pou, Udong started with Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen in an Aalto university design studio in Finland. According to the architects, they "travelled to Cambodia to find a design task with a local NGO" and eventually "decided to organize the construction of Sra Pou vocational school, since there was an urgent need for it and their design inspired both the community and donors." As part of Ukumbi, they provided a training center that enables people in the village to start sustainable businesses in order to secure stable income.

The school is a simple two-story brick rectangular building with a workshop and classrooms, and a covered "community room" to the side. It immediately recalls other projects featured previously on this web page: the Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso by Diébédo Francis Kéré; the Handmade School (METI) in Rudrapur, Bangladesh by Roswag & Jankowski and Anna F. Heringer; and the Wadi El Gemal Visitor Center in Marsa Alam, Egypt by MADA Architects. These projects share a blend of the contemporary and the local in their form and materials, as well as serving unprivileged communities in developing countries.

[In addition to a vocational school,] it is also a place for public gathering and democratic decision-making for the whole community. -Hilla Rudanko and Anssi Kankkunen

Like the Handmade School, color is used on doors and shutters to give the building a strong presence by creating a rhythm across its facade. In the Vocational School these woven pieces also paint the light in various colors as it enters the workshop and classroom. The primary material is handmade brick made from the local soil, giving the building its distinctive red color. This gives the impression that the building is of its place...because it is. As well, local residents participated in the school's construction, both to make the building affordable to build and, more importantly, give them training to use the same techniques for their own houses.

Other additions to the minimal palette include wood beams and columns for the roof of the building and the outdoor space and woven mats for the roofs themselves. A particularly nice touch in the small building can be found in the gaps in the brick walls, gaps that allow air to move through the interior spaces. These breezes can be modulated by the woven shutters. The gaps dapple the light that enters the spaces, and they do the inverse, giving the building another unique presence in spots of light glowing from the inside at night.