Project Description

Classrooms and library for Klay Poe Klo Primaryschool



Design: Jae-Young Lee

Project manager: Paw Eh Wah

Project leader: Line Ramstad

Square meters: Classrooms 125 m² + 34m² + Toilets 5 x 2 m²

Classroom: Traditional Karen building structure with timber posts, strengthened with concrete shoes and diagonals in the building structure. Walls and windows are bamboo in sticks and traditional plates. Insulated tin roof is the only material imported from the nearby town for increased functionality, extended longevity and decreased need for maintenance.

Toilets: Concrete slab with timber construction on iron shoes. Bamboo walls. Tinroof. 

Client: Klay Poe Klo Village/Primaryschool 

Project period: 2017-2018 + 2019

Costs: 154 300 THB (58 155 NOK)

Team: See Da Pah (leader of building site), Phillipa, Pah Me, Kee Kee Pah, Saw Dee, Pah Da, Phaw Reh Mo. 

Villagers has contributed with day labor

Counselors: Line Ramstad, Estudio Cavernas

Project description

Klay Poe Klo primary school: Situated in a remote Karen village, safely hidden in a narrow lush valley with a beautiful waterfall and a clear stream flowing through, the school has been running for years. It is locally, but quite well organized with semi-qualified teachers and a small, but steady, support for books and teachers’ salaries from a school in Mae La Camp. With 6 classes and 4 teachers sharing one room, the need for improved facilities was clearly present. 

Klay Poe Klo Village

Implementation: Klay Poe Klo school is the first project designed for Gyaw Gyaw by an external architect. We have known Jae-Young Lee since 2016, and the cooperation has slowly developed based on friendship and a mutual understanding of architecture as a process in a cultural, environmental and economical sustainable manner. Jae has also won the whole teams trust and respect and we were delighted when she agreed to lead the design of Klay Poe Klo school together with us. 

It is also our first school built only in timber and bamboo. Adobe (clay) would normally be our preferred material for a school building, but the lack of sand in this village combined with the surplus of timber and bamboo, made this the preferred alternative. It is also a great opportunity to expand our knowledge and opportunities for sustainable alternatives, especially for the rainy season. 

Design process on site with Jae, the team and villagers, over a longer period of time. 

Design: The new school building consists of two classrooms divided by a small library that also double as a noise reduction zone and an additional classroom. 

The buildings are adjusted to the landscape and neighbouring houses and designed with focus on functionality, sustainable materials and natural light and airflow through each room. Construction wise, the project is built as a traditional Karen timber building but is strengthened with diagonals to increase stability and make a longer lasting construction. Timber posts are also placed on concrete shoes to avoid humidity and termites to wear down the timber and increase the lifespan 

The walls are designed in a variety of bamboo, both as shaped into sheets and used in its natural rounded shape to match requirements of natural light and airflow through each room and at the same time protect the student for direct sunlight and rain. 

Each classroom is a flexible room that can be used for one or more classes. Blackboards can be moved around, and the benches also works as tables for the smallest kids. The library is placed in the middle and the open construction functions as bookshelves along the walls. In front of the building is a long roof covered entrance area that creates a great hangout space for breaks. It can also be used during school hours when more space is needed. Besides of the roof, concrete shoes, nails and screws, all materials are locally sourced. 



The old school in Klay Poe Klo consisted of one elongated room that all 6 classes shared. Even though it was old and worn down, it had a rainproof roof and stood steady on thick timber tposts. The plan was for the old school building to be used in addition to the school building we completed in 2018. This would give the school acceptable facilities where two and two classes would have their own rooms. If the school continued to develop in a positive direction, and the need for an additional classroom would be present, we would consider to build phase II in a few years. 

The school was ok with this, but when we came back for inspection only months after the first building was completed, the old school was gone. Someone mumbled that it had fallen down, but with the thickest posts in the whole area, that could not have been the case. The village had simply joined forces to tear it down, and now they were ready with both timber and effort for us to start the next step immediately. No doubt that our efforts were appreciated and that they really liked the new school building! 


Klay Poe Klo is a poor village. The school only has a few teachers and they have little additional education besides primaryschool. Under these circumstances, an appropriate question is how much the children actually learn at school? Does it matter to increase their learning conditions?

With the parents being dependent on growing rice and vegetables and harvesting food from the jungle to support their families, we think it is better for the children to be at school and learn something, than being home alone. The school also has a respected position in the village and in the long run, hopefully raising the quality of the school can lead to further improved livelihoods for the village itself. 

As always, we therefore implemented the project in close collaboration with the school and their leaders. The village leaders have also been involved, but if we were to do this project again, a broader connection to the village as a whole, maybe through a village meeting, would have been a smart way to better describe the design choices made. Every village is a little different, and in some, like Klay Poe Klo, rumours and supernatural believe stands stronger than in others. Talks in the village have therefor been to change the bamboo walls with timber, without the function and children’s well-seeing in mind, but because it is seen as a more high standard material.