Characterized by a residential-like cluster development on expansive lush and well-manicured lawns, St. Andrews school has the feel of a small-town in the heart of Molo, Nakuru County. Blending into the rural setting in the highlands of Rift Valley, the school is organized around scattered single and double storey houses surrounded by the stunning views overlooking the rift across to Aberdares and Mount Kenya. Easily identifiable on aerial view by the various roof colours, the preparatory school takes red, the junior school green and the senior school blue. Introducing St Andrews Turi.
Spread over a beautiful 450 acre piece of land, the school’s setup has not changed much over the years. The hand- built structures constructed by Italian Prisoners of War in 1933 are still standing, exuding a rich heritage that has been well preserved.
In 2007, Planning Systems Services Ltd, Architects & Land-use Planners, were commissioned for development of the master plan and architectural design for the progressive expansion of the school to accommodate a senior school as well as reinforce and promote Turi’s status as a world class educational institution.
The project involved creating facilities to accommodate a Sixth Form college and increasing student capacity for accommodation, and teaching. The growth and development is to happen through a well thought-out long term plan of up to 10-15 years. The buildings should tie into the history and culture of the school and its environment, with new and existing buildings co-existing harmoniously within a cohesive master-plan.
In response, the architects developed a spread out approach, clustering single storey buildings in line with the character of the existing buildings on site. “Strong elements of woodwork, painting and ancient Italian design were key requirements by the client,” explains Arch. Susan Makhulo, the lead architect of the project. Taking advantage of the vast terrain, the new buildings are oriented to capture different views of the surrounding areas, as well as utilize passive ventilation and natural light within the spaces. “The spatial planning has different responses to its use. For instance, the students’ accommodation distinguishes spaces between age groups and peer groups while providing common spaces to encourage interaction, development, safety and varying levels of interdependence and independence between different groups,” explains Debbie, the assistant architect on the project.
The school started from what was originally a farm house, and experienced organic growth hence, the scattered arrangement of the buildings.
Creating a heart of the senior school from which all areas and functions are accessible was a brief requirement. The symbolic heart of the school is a large Mugumo, or sycamore fig tree, revered as a sacred tree by local communities.
This is the natural entrance for visitors with parking and a cul-de-sac with the main administration building and function of the school in proximity. “Through incorporating a focal point concept into the master plan, we are able to give clarity and a formal approach for visitors moving through the development and provide security by having a clear access route which visitors are expected to adhere to,” explains Debbie.
Three buildings were designed as statement buildings; the sports hall, the 6th form accommodation complex and the main administration building, combining, where possible, design cues from the existing buildings but bringing the overall appearance up to date. Most of the buildings are low-rise with gable roofs.
An external covered and secure circulation spine connects all seven buildings that form the 6th form accommodation complex, and acts as the main organizing element for the same. Single storey houses for house parents are located at each end of the walkway, with a one-and-half volume common room at the center, flanked by two student apartment blocks on either side. The layout provides flexibility to provide additional student apartment modules projected off the main circulation spine for future expansion. Every common area has a fireplace, which is the gathering place in the evenings.
The 6th form accommodation is designed to give a greater feeling of independence for pre-university students, as compared to the rest of the students’ accommodation. Overall intention is to provide buildings at a scale that is friendly for all students ranging from early years to ‘A’ levels, and for staff members. The architects also wanted to create unobtrusive architecture which complements the natural setting of the campus. To ensure a seamless merging of the old and the new buildings, the scale of the new structures is uniform and as low as the existing buildings. All the structures sit on two levels, excepting the sports facility and that necessitated greater heights to ensure functionality.
The 6th form common room is a 12m by 12m column-free space through the design and placement of glulam portal frames. Internally, there is extensive use of natural exposed timber in ceilings and roof structure.
The barrel roof, is becoming a strong feature in the newer larger buildings such as the recently completed Sports Hall and the proposed Assembly Hall. The corrugated galvanized iron barrel vault roof spans over 30 meters on a curved roof structure. Single sheets spanning the width of the roof were produced and crimped on site in order to achieve a low-profile bend and avoid joints thus reducing chances of roof leakages and failure.
PLANNING’s ethos and approach to sustainability and conversation of both nature and appropriate buildings, are in sync with the school’s huge emphasis on preservation and conservation of nature – a majority of the school’s land is covered by forestry, which both the Architect and Client would like to conserve. “During both master-planning and layout design, we worked towards preserving both the existing forest and existing historical buildings.” explains Arch. Susan.
Environmental friendliness has been well incorporated in the project with the use of mostly locally available building materials. Roofs are made of locally manufactured galvanized iron sheets, walls are built of local stone and glass and slab floors finished with carpet, timber parquet, t&g boards and epoxy flooring in the Sports Hall.
Ceilings are built of t&g and composite boards. “Working with locally available materials worked to the advantage of the contractor especially since the site was located in a rural set up. It also cut down on the transportation and logistics cost,” explains Arch. Debbie.
During the day, the buildings require almost zero artificial lighting and mechanical ventilation through use of design strategies such as correct orientation of buildings and sizing of openings to allow maximum lighting. Use of stone which has a high thermal mass assists in ensuring the spaces are kept as warm as possible at night, together with use of warm flooring to promote comfort and livability in the cold climate.
Terrain of site was one of the major design challenges. “. As much as it could sometimes be difficult to work on an inclined site, it enhanced our creativity in maximizing the available space to the client’s greatest advantage,” explains Arch. Susan. “The inclined site created opportunities for creation of interesting designs as well as utilization of space. The sports facility for instance is designed to merge the inclination with several exits.” The incline also made it possible to locate taller buildings on the lower reaches of the site without these blocking views of the smaller buildings above them as giving an overall effect of scaling the taller buildings down,
Flexibility in terms of how the project was executed was another challenge. “Planning Systems Services were commissioned for master planning while execution involved project managers and contractors from different firms. Coordination with rest of the consortium was quite a task but eventually, the client’s needs were successfully met.
Unifying the old and the new, integrating new functions and changing spatial needs in the education system into the existing older buildings was also challenging. “As much as the workmanship in the old projects was superb, especially in execution of stone-work details, converting some of them and marrying the new projects to them to was quite challenging. Though it could be considered limiting in some aspects, it created opportunities for great creativity due to the existing constraints,” explains Arch. Susan. Unifying the various building typologies aesthetically and proportionally yet making them distinct in function: educational, residential, student accommodation, and the sports facility (the largest building in height and footprint) was an interesting challenge which we were able to tackle successfully.
“Keeping in mind that the project is in a rural area, the client wanted it to blend to the surrounding, the location as well as to the landscape. In as much this was challenging, we made it fun and creative and at the end of the day, managed to meet the client’s requirements.” Susan concludes.
The built area covers 7,100 sqm to date. Over 10 buildings have been built to date including, classrooms, an indoor sports facility, dormitories, and staff houses, in addition to buildings that already existed on site. Construction began in the year 2008 and it’s still ongoing. The approximate cost for the complete project is Kshs. 400 Million
Client – St. Andrew’s School Turi
Architect – Planning Systems Services Ltd.
Main Contractor – Waruhiu Construction
QS + Project/Construction Managers – Mentor Management Ltd.
Structural Engineer: Metrix Integrated Consultancy