La Reference School responds to the pressing challenge of providing consistent education to the growing children population in Haiti. Located in Ganthier—a one-hour drive from Port-au-Prince—“La Référence” has aspirations of becoming the model and archetype for other schools in Haiti. As part of a pro-bono effort, our firm worked on site planning, architectural design, and engineering while coordinating with structural engineers to ensure the safety and durability of the school in a hurricane and seismic zone. The proposed site strategy consists of a courtyard scheme with two L-shaped buildings: 18 classrooms in one and an administrative building that dovetail with the existing trees in order to provide light-filled, naturally-ventilated spaces surrounding a large open courtyard for the kids to play. This configuration responded to the administration’s needs to be able to provide a safe, healthy space that fosters community. The building emerged from carefully studying the local affordable materials—CMU block, concrete and corrugated steel roofing—in order to increase air-flow, provide natural light and security and to control sound transmission between classrooms. The facade's rhythm of reinforced piers and openings, is based on playfully shifting the CMU block piers which transfer the bearing, up-lift and shear loads to the foundations. The school construction was developed as a series of repeating modules and was strategically phased. This allowed us to manage limited funds efficiently, while simultaneously troubleshooting any issues during the first phase of construction.

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