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Designing Madonna's Malawi

Madonna, Raising Malawi

New schools, even really nice ones in developing countries, don’t necessarily make headlines without endorsement from celebrities and Academy for Girls in Lilongwe is no exception. While Madonna and her organization, Raising Malawi, haven’t always received praise (her 2006 adoption was infamously criticized as “akin to slavery“), hiring New York-based architectural group Studio MDA to design Academy for Girls is definitely a step in the right direction.

One problem with new buildings in African countries is that they “mimic architectural styles and building methods from North America or Europe without any adaptation to local climate,”  but Academy for Girls is an exception. The 113-acre campus, which is scheduled to open in 2012, includes 30 classrooms, 12 dormitories, 18 staff houses, a library, administration building, dining hall, gym, wellness center and sports field and will be built with locally sourced construction materials like Hydraform bricks, made from soil on site. Double roofs are designed with large overhangs to “create ample outdoor shaded space and prevent direct light from striking the glazing and heating up the interior.” The roofs are also designed to catch the breeze for natural ventilation and they will house photovoltaic panels for energy independence. One of the most impressive features are the two man-made wetlands to clean the “black and grey water generated by the school, allowing it to be used in landscape irrigation.”

To see more photos of the proposed design, visit Studio MDA’s site.