Mazar-i-Sharif is a city in transition–with its population continually navigating between traditional ways and the fast-paced world of development and growth. The neighborhood surrounding the Gohar Khaton School is representative of this change, with its ubiquitous mud compounds giving way to concrete and steel apartment buildings, and busy traffic filled avenues replacing once quiet streets. Nature is no longer part of the city, and is now relegated its outskirts and to distant views of the Hindu Kush mountains–only visible on days when the smog and dust subside.
Our school proposal recognizes the need for development, while also acknowledging the value of traditional culture. The scheme is organized by taking cues from traditional Afghan houses, which typically place public areas near the street, and private spaces towards the back of the compound. This strategy allows the school to connect with the neighborhood at the street, and provides protection and respite when desired–the students can retreat to the garden courtyard located deep within the school compound. The school is constructed by combining modern methods with building techniques that have been developed over centuries. This combination provides an opportunity for local craftsmen to learn new skills while maintaining the old ones. The school also employs passive methods of heating and cooling–inspired by Persian arcades–but constructed using modern materials