An urban oasis for children 
Larger cities such as Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif are currently witnessing the disappearance of outdoor green space due to urbanization, and Gohar Khatoon provides local children much-needed access to fresh air, plants, and trees. The school's outdoor activity spaces provide a culturally acceptable place for physical fitness; seating and gathering areas have been designed to promote social interaction between students. Educational gardening has a long tradition in Afghan culture, and several areas on the school grounds have been planted with fruit-bearing trees, or have be designated as vegetable and flower gardens to be tended by the students. Water is a precious resource in the city, and all of the landscaping is irrigated by a system that recycles biologically treated wastewater.

photo by Nic Lehoux

Comfort, sustainability, and self-sufficiency
Many children going to school in Afghanistan must do so in less than comfortable conditions. Schools are often connected to a limited, or unstable power supply, and these institutions operate on almost no budget, often leaving insufficient funds for heating fuel. The design of Gohar Khatoon provides a comfortable learning environment while also operating essentially ‘off the grid’. 

The main staircase in each classroom block forms a ‘sunspace’ that captures heat from the sun for warming the classrooms in winter. Large seasonal doors at the end of the sunspaces can be opened in the warmer months, allowing cool breezes to move through the building. These built-in environmental strategies foster autonomy and self-sufficiency, and allow the school to perform under difficult circumstances using few resources. Capitalizing on low-tech climate responses results in a dependable institution that provides students and staff shelter and comfort for the long term. This is an important aspect to consider at a time when aid to Afghanistan is dwindling, and NATO troops are leaving the country.