Two elements of contemporary Afghan culture have been influential in our the design of the school. First, the understanding of privacy as seen in traditional Afghan qalats–or dwellings–serves as departure point for the school master plan. Second, our inclusion of a poplar grove on the school grounds addresses the problem of deforestation and the lack of green space that characterizes Afghan cities–Mazar-i-Sharif in particular.
Four bars of classrooms–oriented to receive the southern sun–create a sequence of outdoor activity spaces, and also allow views into the poplar grove at the back of site. The use poplar is also continued within the building, as beams, and as the classroom facades. In this way, a traditional material becomes a significant component in the school building, and also shapes the surrounding landscape.
Controlling light and solar heat gain is achieved by using large overhangs to block the summer sun, while permitting it to enter the classrooms in winter. Creating comfortable daylighting conditions for the classrooms has also been a focus of our design work. We found ways to balance light entering the classrooms from the south by illuminating the chalkboard with side windows and a skylight. An insulated and sloped roof resolves problems with snow load, and retains heat when needed.
We hope to create a school imbued with a sense of permanence–where the girls can comfortably learn and play in a natural environment influenced by the warmth of wood.