Kler Deh High School

Karen Highschool for students from a broad area in the mountainous border area. Dormitories and facilities around it are therefor also an essential part of the campus. It is the first highschool in this area and a big step towards re-establishing settlements on this side of the border river. 

Background

Kler Deh High School is the first high school in its area, and is a vital step towards progress, reconciliation, and the rebuilding of the community. It is a whole new school campus with two new school buildings, four dormitories, a kitchen, two combined bathrooms and toilets, and two separate toilets. Library and office will be built in 2017. Our collaborative partner, Solbakken Organization has provided clean drinking water and solar electricity for the project. The project has been completed in close cooperation with Karen Education Department (KED) through Thara Lay Taw. The Border Consortium (TBC) has payed for the first classroom. Design, implementation and local collaborations are done by Gyaw Gyaw who has also payed for the additional classroom, dormitories, toilets and baths, kitchen and eating room, office and library. 

The location of the school is of great historically significance on the Burmese side of the border. The whole village was razed and burned to the ground by the Burmese army first in 1984 and then again in 1996. The village, that had both schools and a hospital, was abandoned after the last attack, and the surviving Karen population fled across the border to the refugee camps on the Thai side. The trenches, only meters behind the school building, is a daily reminder of the heavy fighting that took place in the area just a few years ago.

The project started with a community meeting with the purpose of assessing the situation of the village, promoting an open-minded and equal discussion, and exchanging ideas and concerns. This was an important and exciting step towards a better understanding of democracy as all aspects of the society were represented, and the result was a common base for further discussions. Discussions are in general rare in Karen communities, as the social structure is in general hierarchical, and one rarely questions a leaders point of view. This works well in a military community, but the transition towards a civil community demands a different approach. The inclusion of all parties involved and the on-going discussions pertaining to the project is a process we feel is extremely important as it empowers the individual and the community.

Details

Built and designed by Gyaw Gyaw 2014 -2017 in cooperation with Solbakken and on request from KED by Thara Lay Taw.

74 weeks/3 188 000 THB

The project is sponsored by Gyaw Gyaw through our sponsors and 600 000 THB from TBC.

Gyaw Gyaw: Line Ramstad (project manager/architect) Peter, Phillipa, Pah Me, See Da Pah and Ste Pha. Saw Dee, Paw Eh Wah and Ole Gunnar has contributed in administrative matters.

Solbakken: Nick Powers, Htoot Htoot, Em

Villagers have contributed as day labor and Karen Women Organisation has facilitated for food.

Photo: Franc Pallarès López, Vincenzo Floramo, Line Ramstad

Process

After a request from Karen Education Department and research and discussions within the team, we agreed to make an exception from our normal rule of only supporting existing schools and institutions.

The Kler Deh Highschool is filling a gap in the local school structure and the people and organizations behind it are well respected and with good reputation and connections. They also asked us in particular because they know us well and wanted to start rebuilding the village with the best intentions.

It was an interesting process. After many years and a broad variety of projects for a broad variety of inhabitants in the same area, we have a voice and are trusted. We know what to expect and how to deal with most of it. Since this particular area played an important central role in the past, and most likely will do so in the near future, it was however more levels of power structures to orientate among then usual. In this part of the world, leaders should never loose face. They need to be respected and should never be told wrong in front of others. For the local structure, it is also important that they are able to show both power and skills. The first meetings were therefor more of a statement of power and recognition of this, then anything else, but at the same time we got to show our philosophy and ideas and got acceptance for them as well.

When the hierarchy is stated and an understanding established, the building is supposed to start right away. This is the biggest challenge! Good planning is the key to a good result! This approach is something we try to influence, but when the first meeting was over and we got asked how much timber we would need, that is an acceptance and a compliment that cannot be turned down. Without even knowing how many students or how many classrooms they would need, we had to give an estimate. Good teamwork and common experiences from a long-term commitment in the same area are often useful.

An including process towards a building is a goal in itself. We aim to get as many people involved as possible. Within the budget and for it still to be a smooth construction process, we try to connect as many local villagers and future users as we can. In an area with limited papers and a strong community feeling between family members and neighbors, the aspect of working together on a project is important. It gives the project a local foundation. The ownership to our buildings is then taken care of in a local manner, and does not harm the community. This again leads to better maintenance of the building and the chance that the people who have worked on it will send their kids to school instead of out to work, is bigger.

Involving locals also gives them a salary for the time they work with us, they get lunch and hopefully our focus on workers right and democracy in practice can bring a better understanding for human rights into the area. 

Kler Deh High School

The school area is withdrawn from the riverside, placed beautifully at the bottom of a hill with a stunning view across the river to the mountains of Thailand. The property is slightly sloping in two directions, both towards the river and towards the new village settlement.

All buildings follows the incline of the landscape, and are adjusted to sun and wind directions. South and west facing windows are smaller to avoid direct sunlight, while north and east facing windows are opening up for daylight. 

Natural airflow has been determining for placement of windows, and also affected the choice of bamboo as main wall material for the dormitories. In the classrooms, vertical airflow is also an issue, and both roofs are constructed with this in mind. Roof material for all buildings is insulated tin roof and it is the only material bought from the outside (Mae Sot). It´s chosen for it`s qualities in weight and for muting the noice of heavy rain during rainy season. 

Both school buildings are built with load bearing adobe walls constructed with bricks made on site. Foundation for the walls are iron reinforced, while all other concrete slabs are reinforced with bamboo from the local jungle. All timber is locally grown, produced and purchased and sand and gravel come from the local river.

Classroom Phase I

Three classrooms following the inclining landscape east to west. Main entrance facing direct north parallel to the main river valley. Each classroom is one level, with the middle class room withdrawn from the two others for a more private entrance situation for each of them. It also allows for a better use of the roof covered inside/outside situation.

Designed by Gyaw Gyaw/Line Ramstad and built by Gyaw Gyaw in 2014. 

200 square meters. 3 classrooms/48 square meters each.

18 weeks/853 000 THB (Hereby 600 000 THB supported by TBC)

Classroom Phase II

Three classrooms placed parallel to the inclining landscape, in a north-south direction. Together with the first three classrooms built in 2014, phase II make a semi closed square for the schools morning and evening ceremony to be held.

The middle classroom is withdrawn to make better use of the inside/outside roof covered area, and it also divide the entrances for each classroom. Hight differences are solved with stairs on the outside of each classroom.

Designed by Gyaw Gyaw/Line Ramstad and built by Gyaw Gyaw in 2015/2016.

200 square meters. 3 classrooms/48 square meters each.

14 weeks/620 599 THB

Four dormitories

The design is based on the temporary dormitories at CDC school in Mae Sot, constructed by Gyaw Gyaw in collaboration with Albert Company Olmo (Agora Architects) in 2012. Feedback from the users have been taken into consideration to further improve the functionality of the design. Materials, such as timber flooring in the walkway instead of bamboo and an insulated tin roof instead of leaves or grass, are changed to make the dormitories long lasting. The construction is elevated to increase airflow and natural ventilation through the building.

80 square meters x 4 = 320 square meters. 4 dormitories, each 6 rooms/3 students in each = room for 72 students.

Designed and built by Gyaw Gyaw (based on design by Albert Company-Olmo) in 2014/2015. 

14 weeks/845 836 THB

Kitchen and dining room

The kitchen is a smaller building, designed for cooking, eating and evening hang out for the children who stay in the dormitories. It´s a combination of a lifted load bearing adobe section for cooking, both inside and outside, and a lowered bamboo section on timber construction for eating and homework in the evening. All placed on a concrete slab following the declining landscape.

The windows are picking up the same theme as the plaited windows in the dormitories, but are smaller. The entrance/doors are following the logic of many children getting food at the same time, so it´s functional and easy for a lot of people to be lined up, to eat and for everyone to wash their plates after each meal.

With an increasing number of students, an additional dining room is built to cover the spacial need for all the students to eat at the same time.

Designed by Gyaw Gyaw/Line Ramstad and built by Gyaw Gyaw 2014-2017.

2014/2015      Kitchen              8 weeks/127 335 THB
2016/2017      Diningroom    10 weeks/223 089 THB

Toilets/Baths

The pits where the soil for adobe production is dug is multifunctional as it also doubles as the septic system for the toilets and baths.

The bathrooms are placed behind the dormitories to secure privacy for the students. It´s two bathrooms, each with a common traditional shower area and three separate toilets.

For the school, two toilet buildings, each with three toilets is placed behind each building. One of them was the first toilet built on site, and for easier shower opportunities during construction period, it also contains of a traditional shower room.

Designed by Gyaw Gyaw/Line Ramstad and built by Gyaw Gyaw in 2013-2015. 

9 weeks / 171 117 THB

Solar energy and drinking water

Water access and solar electricity’s provided by Solbakken. It´s a collaboration we are extremely satisfied with.

Since the property is quite far from the river or any water source, building with adobe was a challenge. With Solbakken starting their part of the project first, placing a solar pump and water storage before we started the adobe production, we got good water access during the whole process. Solbakken also finished the drinking water access at an early stage, a win win situation where we got drinking water during the production period and Solbakken got enough water flowing through the system to make the necessary tests to it before school start.

Implemented by Solbakken in 2014

212 848 THB

Pictures

Notes

Other projects