Brazilian school wins RIBA International Prize 2018 for the world’s best new building

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village, a new school complex on the edge of the rainforest in northern Brazil designed by Brazilian architects, Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum, has won the RIBA International Prize 2018.

The accolade is awarded every two years to a building that "exemplifies design excellence and architectural ambition and delivers meaningful social impact" and is one of the world’s most rigorously judged architecture awards, with every longlisted building visited by a group of international experts.

Children Village provides boarding accommodation for 540 children aged 13 to 18 attending the Canuanã School. Pupils come from remote areas of the country, some travelling many hours by boat. Funded by the Bradesco Foundation, Children Village is one of forty schools run by the foundation providing education for children in rural communities across Brazil.

The architects, Gustavo Utrabo and Petro Duschenes from Aleph Zero, designed Children Village in collaboration with Marcelo Rosenbaum and Adriana Benguela from architecture and design studio, Rosenbaum.

Central to their vision for the project was the idea of architecture as a tool for social transformation. The architects worked closely with the children to identify their needs and desires for their school. They wanted to create an environment that could be a home away from home, where children could develop a strong sense of both individuality and belonging. Replacing dormitories for 40 students, the new design provides rooms for six children in a more intimate environment. As well as private spaces, public spaces were designed to give ample space for pupils to study, play and relax.

Covering an area of almost 25,000 m2, the school is organised into two identical complexes: one for girls and one for boys. Residences are centred around three large, open and well-shaded courtyards at ground level, where the dormitory accommodation is located. On the first floor, there are a number of flexible communal spaces, ranging from reading spaces and television rooms to balconies and hammocks, where the children can relax and play.

The tropical climate, with summertime temperature in the mid-40 degrees, was one of the major challenges cleverly addressed by the architects. The large canopy roof, the structure of which is made up of cross-laminated timber beams and columns, provides shading. The overhanging canopy design has created an intermediary space, between inside and out, giving the effect of a large veranda overlooking the surrounding landscape and creating a comfortable environment with no need for air conditioning.

Combining a contemporary aesthetic with traditional techniques, Children Village has been described by the judges as "reinventing Brazilian vernacular". The building is constructed with local resources and based on local techniques. Earth blocks handmade on site were used to construct the walls and latticework, chosen for their thermal, technical and aesthetic properties. As well as being cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, this approach creates a building with strong connections to its surroundings and with the community that it serves.

Applications for the RIBA International Prize 2020 will open in July 2019. Find more information at www.architecture.com.

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti

Children Village © Leonardo Finotti