CIfA Award for Architecture: Chere Botha School for Learners with Special Educational Needs – Wolff Architects


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Cheré Botha is a government school for children on the autism spectrum and those with intellectual disabilities. The design of the school keeps the children safe and gives them the opportunity to learn in an environment which is contained and low on external stimuli.

In plan the classrooms are tightly knit in two wings around multiple-use covered collective social spaces that replace conventional school corridors. The entire plan with the main hall in the middle opens its arms to a safe social arrival area for parents, learners and teachers.

There are three types of roof section. In the small classroom roofs and large hall roofs clerestory windows bring in light that is softened as it washes onto the curved white ceilings. At the collective spaces, cathedral-like timber A-frames hold a clear roof over these internal streets that are a safe, shared learning and play area. This elegant roofed space signifies social collective space while providing cover and warmth in winter.

The particular form of the buildings is a result of these explorations in roof sections which have a hierarchy that makes the spaces legible without colour but in soft light white volumes as an urban collection from the classroom, to shared social space, to the main hall, to a school in the neighbourhood.

The project is an excellent example of how good architecture can question a traditional typology and in so doing create a more effective learning environment and a set of legible urban places and forms.

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