Multipurpose Hall at St. Bernard’s Secondary School, Mannya
Studio FH Architects - Uganda
Drawings, plans, elevations
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St. Bernard’s Secondary School’s new Multipurpose Hall is a combined assembly and dining hall providing room for 650 students. On a footprint of 680m² it accommodates a covered external auditorium including a simple stage and a school kitchen with associated servery, dish collection, stores and manager’s office. The building, located in Mannya village in Southern Uganda, was funded by the Cotton On Foundation ( from Australia who are actively investing in the construction of educational infrastructure in the districts of Rakai and Lwengo as part of their charitable work. Amongst the projects previously funded by COF in Southern Uganda is the Ross Langdon Health Education Centre ( ross-langdon-plus-studio-fh-architects). Three curved steps create an amphitheatre that follows the gentle slope of the site and is both suitable for stage performances and communal events in which everyone relates to everyone. With a depth of 2.7m the bench-height steps are also wide enough to accommodate dining tables and benches, arranged perpendicular to the step edges, providing an acceptable compromise between the differing functional requirements of a dining hall and an assembly space. A potpourri of locally available materials (clay bricks, tiles and stone slates) are stacked up in layers to clad the tilted reinforced concrete columns. Hovering above is a 21m spanning metal roof, with the curved kitchen building tucked under also forming the stage backdrop. With its wedge-shaped roof planes installed at two different angles, natural daylight ingresses through narrow triangular strips of vertical translucent roofing sheets softening the sharp contrast between outdoor and indoor light and creating a playful composition of sunlight. To improve acoustics and as an affordable way of softening the industrial nature of the metallic roof, baffles made of locally available hemp fabric were suspended from the roof. A number of appropriate technologies have been utilised; these include concealed rainwater harvesting from 90% of the roof area; solar chimneys in the kitchen to improve natural ventilation and provide good natural light for the worktops; and fuel-efficient firewood stoves with built-in water pre-heating. The building was designed by Studio FH Architects, a young Ugandan practice specialising on the design and implementation of innovative rural architecture in East Africa.
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