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Khovd School Rooms

We entered the Cool School Mongolia competition for an addition to a school in the city of Khovd, a city located in a remote part of the Mongolian steppes known mostly for its extreme climate and isolation. The competition solicited schemes which investigated how this addition could be made as sustainably as possible. 


We took the assigned program units (two classrooms, a gym, and restrooms) and minimally altered them from the requirements of the brief. We translated each of these units into simple, individuated rooms. We wanted our scheme to be considered a prototype which could be used for the construction of additional classrooms anywhere in the region. In its simplest iteration our proposal can be built as an individual class room — added incrementally to existing buildings like remoras on a shark. Or more ambitiously, the units can be arranged in a number of configurations. We have explored alternative configurations for inspiration.


To reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation of building materials to the site, we limited our material palette to what we understood to be relatively available in Khovd: mud brick, concrete masonry units (CMU), metal roofs, locally assembled window and skylight systems, and wood framing (minimally). The recently renovated Kindergarten in Khovd used rigid foam insulation, which we have also proposed in the roof and wall construction. We are cladding the building in unfinished mud brick, in keeping with the exteriors of the pre-Soviet vernacular structures. In addition to its thermal and vernacular properties, we believe the making and laying of mud brick encourages community participation. Contrasting the earthen and highly textured surface of our class rooms are the bright, vibrant, and complimentary colors of the roofs and the windows. 


The iconic shapes seen in elevation abstractly reference Mongolian culture, vernacular, and landscape; the profiles draw upon the iconic forms of the Mongolian yurt, a Mongolian dancing hat, and the Altai Mountains surrounding Khovd. In addition to a familiar family of forms, the idiosyncratic roofs create exciting interior spaces for the children in addition to an easy way of urban land-marking schools in an otherwise sea of flat roofed single story buildings.

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