The 2017 Design Miami Visionary Award goes to collaborative school project in Zambia

Published 18th September 2017
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Rendering of Mwabwindo School 1
The 2017 Design Miami Visionary Award goes to collaborative school project in Zambia
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
A school offering free education in rural Africa has been awarded an international design prize, it was announced today. Set to open next year, the Mwabwindo School in southern Zambia was named the winner of this year's prestigious Panerai Design Miami Visionary Award.
Featuring mud-brick classrooms and a corrugated iron roof, the complex will provide schooling for 200 students. The project also offers playing fields, an assembly space and accommodation for teachers.
One of the firms behind the project, New York's Selldorf Architects, says that the design was inspired by the nearby savannah. Like the surrounding trees, the school's roof canopy will provide shaded areas that can serve as gathering places.
Other design innovations include the use of solar panels, a windmill-powered well and a rainwater collection system that feeds into a vegetable garden.

A collaborative effort

The Panerai Design Miami Visionary Award was created four years ago to honor "significant contributions to the field of design." This year marks the first time that the prize has been won by a collaborative project.
While Selldorf Architects led the design, the firm shares its award with contemporary artist Rashid Johnson, who created a mural for the school, and 14+ Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that builds and operates education facilities in rural Africa.
Architecture and design firm Christ & Gantenbein is also part of the winning collective, having developed customizable furniture for the school. The company's "Mwabwindo Series" of wooden tables and stools can be assembled without glue or hardware, and have been built on-site by local craftsmen.
"Being part of a larger team committed to the potential of architecture and beauty to create meaningful change in people's lives is powerful," said Selldorf Architects' founder and principal, Annabelle Selldorf, in a press statement. "Seeing how the school is coming together and how the community in Mwabwindo has already taken it on as a point of local pride is immensely gratifying."

Empowering the community

The construction process has thus far relied on craftsmen from Mwabwindo village. Bricks were handmade on-site, with local masons employed to build the school's main structures.
Once open, it is hoped that the facilities will be used by the wider community. Award organizers praised the project not only for its design qualities, but for the "lasting impact" it has on the area it serves.
"(We are) thrilled to champion the inspiring Mwabwindo School project," said Design Miami's chief creative director, Rodman Primack, in a press statement. "This year's Visionary Award rightly honors the importance of collaboration, innovative partnership and the role design can play in influencing positive social change globally."
The award will be presented at Design Miami, which takes place 6 to 10 December.