Mustardseed Junior School is a newly founded private initiative with the aim of creating an exemplary kindergarten and primary school that provides an inspirational and practical education to the young children in its care, encouraging them to flourish and prosper as global citizens in Uganda and beyond. The school is located near Sentema, a village about 20km west of Kampala.
The inspiration for the design was to create a ‘large home’ for the children that functions as an enabling educational environment. The architectural ambition is not programmatically prescriptive, but rather to inspire teachers and students alike to inhabit spaces in multiple and creative ways, to (literally) think outside the box and to treat the entire school, not just the classroom, as a greater learning environment.
At Mustardseed, no two classrooms are alike and none of them are in the shape of a rectangle. Spaces are organically shaped and characterised by a warm, natural materiality accentuated by playful and inspiring colours. The thick, earthen, undulating external walls stop short of the roof allowing the flow of fresh air to cool down the spaces. Direct sunlight is filtered through the roof in selected areas filling the space with comfortable levels of natural light. Each classroom has a dedicated outdoor learning area shaded by trees which can be accessed through a series of colourful double doors.
The landscape and architectural design are in complete harmony with each other. The free flowing forms of the internal teaching spaces resonate in the landscape design in fluid, flowing lines which seek to nurture curiosity for learning within children. A holistic approach to teaching is core to the overall concept of Mustardseed which means learning from and with nature is of central importance. This objective is taken seriously in the design by literally creating a space for nature. Another ambition of this project is to improve biodiversity, despite the construction, and to (re-) create indigenous forests, whilst ensuring human activities on the land are sustainable, practical, and enrich the overall environment. These goals are being achieved through conservation agriculture, soil regeneration and sustainable indigenous timber plantations.
All building materials have been carefully selected to reflect Mustardseed’s ambition to be holistically ‘green’. Foundations are made without any concrete, instead they are built with well-packed sandstone blocks from a quarry less than 2km away. The structural slab will also function as the final floor finish, ground down to expose the natural stone aggregate. Walls are made with unstabilised earth, harvested on site and formed using earthbag technology. The walls are finished in local sandstone slates at the lower level and unpainted lime-earth render above. The roof structure is built using eucalyptus trees that were cut and sawn on site to create space for the football pitch. Above a simple metal sheet cover is a layer of eucalyptus offcuts creating a natural wooden roof finish that will patina to grey over time. On building interior, locally made woven mats will be mounted to the underside of the roof to soften the interior environment and provide an attractive play of colour.
Mustardseed Junior School is Localworks’ first end-to-end Design & Build project and is projected for completion in November 2020.