Mud, Glorious Mud!

October 2, 2020

Some of the classroom walls were collapsing the tin roofs were leaking and there was just one unhygienic long drop toilet for over 120 children. Bad sanitation is one of the main reasons girls reaching puberty drop out of school so it was vital to get it fixed.

This year, SpinningTop supported a school built from adobe mud bricks by the community. Located on the outskirts of Mae-Sot on the Thai/Burma border, Farmhouse school had a really lovely vibe, was well established but in a decrepit state. Farmhouse school’s Principal is a particularly selfless woman who has run the school despite receiving no funding for the past nine years.

As the migrant schools are not officially part of the Thai education system there is little to no support for teachers’ salaries, infrastructure and building so schools are more often than not in poor condition and only survive due to the dedication of the teachers.

As a regular visitor to the border German Architect Jan Glasmeier was determined to help. He is the founder of ‘Simple Architecture’ an Architectural not-for-profit organization with a mission to challenge the way we currently design and build by focusing on socially conscious and environmentally friendly design solutions.   

Kids and the community help mould mud bricks..jpg

He works with local communities to design and manage their builds. For this project he just needed to find some funding. His design was costed and came to the grand sum of NZ$2500 showing just how far the New Zealand dollar goes in this part of the world.

The stars aligned when Jan crossed paths with Annie Fischer from SpinningTop who was in Mae Sot on her annual budget trip to the border region. Annie also saw the possibilities in Jan’s goal to meet the immediate needs of the school and align to the long-term sustainability of the school. 

Costs were kept to a minimum by employing the local community including the school children. Soil with a good clay content was found locally and the playground was used as a site for the children to learn a new skill - making the adobe bricks for the walls. Second hand timber for the framing was bought from a local wood shop.

Construction of adobe mud brick classroom.jpeg

They only had to use reinforced concrete for the foundations to provide a strong base for the adobe walls and the light second-hand timber roof structure. Furthermore, the classroom is constructed in such a way that due to the heat absorbing adobe walls, the placement under the shade of a tree and the resulting natural ventilation, no further means of cooling for the classroom is needed.

During the construction process Jan exchanged his knowledge of building techniques with the locals. This resulted in a wider skill-set for both parties.

As the local community were part of every stage from the initial design through to the construction they have a communal sense of ownership. Jan and his team have succeeded in making a great building out of something so simple. 

This is a fantastic project that is not only beautiful but also sustainable and easily replicable.

Finished adobe mud brick classroom.jpg

Words by Annie Fischer. Images by Jan Glasmeier

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