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Building Blocks: Humanitarian Design and Schools

Architecture, when done well, can improve lives. And perhaps no building typology better exemplifies this transformative power than schools — the place where young minds are nurtured, where future leaders are reared. Here, we spotlight three modest yet remarkable projects making an impact in impoverished areas: classrooms in quake-ravaged Haiti, a secondary school in West Africa’s Burkina Faso, and rural day-care centers in the U.S. These projects aren’t elaborate; rather, they are smart, simple structures built with a little money and a lot of heart. Although each is different in execution, they all serve as sources of pride and optimism in communities where dreams often are shelved because of the daily struggle to survive. Hopefully, as the do-good design movement gains momentum, we’ll see empowering projects such as these emerge in greater numbers around the globe.


— Jenna M. McKnight


Transitional Classrooms in Haiti

Transitional Classrooms in Haiti
The Rhode Island-based architect Jack Ryan teams up with Plan International to build light-frame classroom buildings for quake-ravaged communities in Haiti.

Photo © Jack Ryan

Secondary School in Burkina Faso

Secondary School in Burkina Faso
The award-winning architect Diébédo Francis Kéré uses local materials and labor to construct a beautiful school for a West African village.

Photo © Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk

Child Care Centers in Southeastern U.S.

Child Care Centers in Southeastern U.S.
The Florida-based architect Ted Hoffman conceives a series of exuberant daycare facilities for children of migrant workers.

Photo © Ted Hoffman


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