Nepal is a country in development, and as in most other ‘developing countries’ good education is considered a key-element in the process of economic growth based progression.
Unfortunately this progression is often sought in a greatest possible resemblance to the industrialized North.
This has caused Nepali schools to become places where children are raised to be ‘citizens of the world’ (or rather of the consumerist West) that are as little traditional and local as possible, and this evolution is reflected in both the school architecture (cubistic concrete blocks) and the curriculum and pedagogy (with great focus on the English language).
While education used to be organized informally and in the everyday and domestic context, today children are raised in institutions that risk alienating them from their cultural background. Since the school as an institution was introduced during colonial times, and is still today a form of complicity to the exploiting system, we renamed the original ‘Ideal School’ project to ‘Post-School’, referring to the Post-Colonialism movement. The project should thus be understood as a new building typology for a knowledge transfer that re-establishes a connection with the ancestral wisdom, next to a more Western oriented knowledge. In this sense the school adds to the process of decolonization at the heart of globalized pedagogical interventions and replaces the over-institutionalized schools of today.
The gap between the ‘home’ and the ‘school’ environment was further widened when the Nepali government took the initiative in the seventies to organize public education on a National level (with the doubtful objective of producing students loyal to the regime), and thereby has cut the school loose from the community.
A discontinuity emerged in the transferring of traditional knowledge, crafts and (vernacular) building techniques, since all these belong to the domestic environment to which the school wants to be the antipode.
This project aims at designing a learning environment that combines the local with the globalized ‘modern’ and the traditional with the contemporary on both an architectural and a pedagogical (= the local school curriculum and the extracurricular activities such as community interactions) level.
Although the need for new built schools is high in Nepal, we decided to invest in a slow process. We witnessed how organizations, such as UNESCO deliver concrete blocks with no identity, no atmosphere and no comfort, reinforce the colonial way of education which leads to more drop-outs.
The school has been designed in close collaboration with CEPP (who is specialized in upgrading rural public schools) and after several field trips, analyzing the rural lifestyle in different areas in Nepal. The new building is rather small and opens up to four different ways of teaching and exchanging knowledge, through multiple purpose classes such as a stage, a kitchen, a storytelling space and agriculture, or seed class.
The actual building is the total responsibility of the villagers. Together with our students (2017-2018) we built the foundations on which now the local craftsmen continue the process. This is a complicated method, which asks for a lot of communication through simple sketches and building advise. However in this way, the villagers appropriate the school, which hopefully will lead to a smaller gap between teachers and parents, between education and the everyday.
As a last phase, we want to upload the interior of the classrooms together with the villagers and the teachers, by adding elements of their own culture. For example the tattoos on the faces and arms of the grandmothers of the village, of which most youngsters have no idea what they mean, could be painted on the walls of the storytelling class and serve as a booster to remember details and anecdotes of their collective past. Redefining the Tamang identity and creating a sense of pride over the ancestral wisdom is our major aim.
The outcome is the ongoing process of which most time and effort went into researching and mapping the different regions we visited the past three years, and the different schools & villages where some of our students did a six weeks internship. The student research books gathered important data on local habits, rituals, building practices, …
Our students of the International Master of Architecture and of the Master Interior architecture of the Facultly of Architecture KULeuven have designed their own Post-School.
in collaboration with
CEPP – Michael Rai & Teeka Bhattarai,
arch. Wart Thys, Lin Seminck