Zipzap Circus School
TSAI DESIGN STUDIO
Zipzap Circus School offers a unique learning experience unlike conventional schools. The proposed school in Salt River is a new building typography combining a circus, a theatre and a school.
The Zip Zap Circus School has offered free circus performance training to children and youth since 1992, using circus arts and performance as tools for social transformation, youth empowerment and community upliftment. The school is supported by the legendary Cirque De Soleil company, who arrange regular exchange programmes. Not all young children are made to fit in with the conventional school system. Such children may drop out before reaching their full potential. Zipzap Circus School helps them by teaching circus skills to build their self-esteem and develop well rounded life skills. The Professional Young Adult Programme is a three year course 6 days a week curriculum that includes: 1. Performing (solo and group acts) 2. Teaching (methodology, planning, reporting and coordination skills) 3. Technicalities of stage (lighting, sound, video, rigging) 4. Life skills (English class, computer skills, social work) 5. Practical skills (music, sewing, driving, woodwork, electrical) For years, the school has operated in a temporary tented structure on leased land. But the tent is not conducive to a teaching environment: noise levels are high, and classes cannot be adequately separated. Zip Zap has long dreamed of having a permanent home, with separate classrooms and its own trapeze hall. This dream has become a reality. With the help of their sponsors, the school has bought a site in industrial Salt River. The Zipzap Circus School is a new building typology, combining the best of a circus, a theatre and a school. Three key ideas formed our response: Idea 1: the magic of the circus is translated through the iconic image of a circus tent into the sculptural form of the building and the colourful screen. Idea 2: the ‘theatre’ of the circus is introduced by having constant visual connection between the triple volumn trapeze hall and the school block. Idea 3: the unique learning experience of a circus school is enhanced by bringing all the back stage elements into public view, and by creating adaptable spaces for different learning opportunities.