Elementary Technical School Governor Joaquim Araújo (present day Estrela Vermelha High School)

Elementary Technical School Governor Joaquim Araújo (present day Estrela Vermelha High School)

Maputo [Lourenço Marques], Maputo, Mozambique

Equipment and Infrastructures

The Elementary Technical School in Maputo (1961) - also known as Elementary Technical School Joaquim Araújo Governor, and now known as Estrela Vermelha Secondary School - is the largest project and the most complex program of all school types designed by Fernando Mesquita (1916 – 1990’s) in Mozambique between 1955 and 1975.

Fernando Mesquita program emerged in the '50s, in the context of Public Works Services of Mozambique, from school buildings construction needs, in large-scale and in a short period of time, throughout the national territory for various types of education. The fast implementation and minimal cost per school unit were the basic requirements. Moreover, the teaching in Mozambique was simultaneously and continuously being defined. Given the uncertainty of the functional program, the children number and their frequency, one of the primary interests to be taken into account in the architectural design of school buildings have been the ability to adapt to future uses, especially considering the expansion. In addition to these requirements, the key to the conceptual development of this architectural program resided in the adapting of buildings to local climate challenges.

Given the above, it develops typology that chooses the classroom as the basic unit of spatial organization. Of squared plan and initially intended for teaching in class, is conceived in a single compartment, always with at least two facades in contact with the outside, to one of the facades is added a covered circulation gallery.

                Started to be developed for primary schools, based on the continued aggregation of rooms side by side as the programmatic needs, progressed to the professional schools and secondary (technical schools, preparatory, commercial, industrial and high schools), where the basic spatial unit organization became the pavilion as a result of classrooms grouping. These, integrating the different functional requirements, are distributed generally along a circulation covered gallery that articulates the classroom perpendicularly. Continuing to develop, it acquires in the Elementary Technical School of Maputo two main circulation galleries, while the exceptional case of all Mesquitano built program.

Contrary to linearity and horizontality that other schools have, the Elementary Technical School of Maputo is structured on an orthogonal circulation grid, based on a steep slope, and is organized in various levels. This deployment variance enabled the creation of a wider variety of outdoor spaces, acquiring a diversity that is not achieved in any other school, mostly built on flat surfaces. Exuberantly involved of an extensive range of plant species, is a paradigm in the contribution of vegetation for pollution, dust and noise retention and visibility to the exterior.

All Fernando Mesquita schools are divided into three basic areas of different demands: the administration, the school sector and the games and sports sector. On the Elementary Technical School of Maputo the pavilion for the administrative function becomes more complex, compared with other Mesquitanas schools, as being inserted in a pavilion that acquires the same design characteristics and pavilions distribution of educational function, and in a privileged position that articulates two circulation galleries instead of the reduced dimensions pavilion, projected in a peripheral position. In addition to the administrative functions, this core has in this school also the existence of a library and a museum, required direct integration for the student community, and therefore in a pivotal position between the school interior and exterior marking its entrance.

The school sector is divided between pavilions for teaching in class, to subjects that do not require provisions or special equipment, of three floors and pavilions of one floor, of more generous dimensions, intended for experimental teaching. With the volatility that marked the school and the program intended for each school, these rooms were designed in order to meet every possible variety of uses and frequencies that future could require.

The sports sector is composed of the gym which, again, is distinguished in this school by the access gallery that acquires balcony function for the public to watch the outdoor gymnastic shows that in continuity with the exercise rooms can proceed on the grass. Moreover, physical education plays a very significant role, seen in the proportion of outdoor spaces for its practice, autonomously from other academic areas, is distributed by the available space.

With regard to architectural design due to climatic characteristics, it should be noted that the main challenges that are placed on architectural creation, given the climate in Mozambique - characterized by having high temperatures, on average above 22º C in the hot season, combined with torrential rains broadcast to air a high moisture content - are the promotion of solar radiation and rain protection and the enhancement of the maximum air circulation as moisture effects fight.

The higher performance of sunscreen requires a longitudinal deployment where the further developments of facades are East-West oriented in order to protect from the sun its two larger walls. The rigor of this orientation is verifiable in Fernando Mesquita most schools where on an exception situation are East oriented, as is the Elementary Technical School of Maputo, as the morning sun is less harmful. In addition to the implantation, the North façade openings - where the sun radiation concentrates most of the day and vertically – are reduced and are duly protected by horizontal shading devices; the covered circulation galleries and the coverages, North placed, effectively perform this function.

In South facades - where the sun radiation concentrates horizontally only at the beginning and ending of some days of the year - the openings get larger and are protected by vertical shading devices in continuity with the structure.The increased natural ventilation requires buildings openings perpendicularly oriented (or even 45º) to wind direction, which can be seen perfectly in the case of Elementary Technical School, since in Maputo fresh winds come predominantly from the South in the hot season, where the larger openings are placed, increasing the output speed of the air. This is also the optimal condition for rainfall protection, since the larger openings are opposite to the covered circulation gallery, ensuring protected users circulation on rainy days.

Natural ventilation and lighting are also benefiting from the beta windows use; a type of frame comprising a system of adjustable glass blades. It allows simultaneously the natural light and air circulation orientation to user’s level and desks ensuring permanent natural ventilation of the classroom even when exposed to rain. The temperatures softening and winds control from the exterior to the interior spaces is also duly influenced by the exuberant presence of diverse vegetation in the buildings surrounding.

The structural design is based on a reinforced concrete system, with all its technical and economic significance - based on a Cartesian system of pillar-beam, complemented by lightened or massive slabs made of prefabricated elements. The secondary circulation galleries shaped by the continuity of classrooms floors and supported by porticos in the walls continuity mark the separation between classrooms and make clear the reading of the pavilions structural system of secondary schools. The same applies in the opposite facades, in which slabs and beams are shown to incorporate shading devices, an exemplary integration. The visible structure allows in all cases scrupulous reading of its elements.

In terms of construction is known the architect combination between a functional and modern material resolution, whose materials and techniques are not forbidden, based on use of reinforced concrete, prefabrication, and the use of local materials and techniques combined with reuse concerns. In both cases the choices made represent an exemplary response to the conditions to which the structure and materials are exposed: high values and temperature changes, humidity and rainfall, combined with acoustic comfort concerns and mechanical behavior that the materials are subject in the context of a school building.

With a rigorous and essential design, representative of low cost conditioning in construction, which was intended to be fast, durable and adaptable to future requirements, the relationship between the modern and the climate is evident in this unique architectural legacy, not only in the design options for weather and place, but also in the hierarchy of intentions that the architect took into constructive, formal and programmatic terms.


Zara Ferreira

(Referência FCT: PTDC/AUR-AQI/103229/2008)