Maw Kwee Primary School


Maw Kwee is a small remote mountain village with a primary school. The school is the center of Maw Kwee, run in close partnership with the village. It is one of few migrant schools along the border outside of Mae Sot, and with a reputation of good teachers, it attracts an increasing number of children from a wide area. The school building was one room and in need for replacement. With more then 100 children divided in 6 classes, they were also in need of better customised space.


By including the future users and people around them as much as possible throughout the whole design and construction process, we believe the actual result will be better. The knowledge exchanged during the building process will reach further and the local participation anchor the ownership and maintenance of the building firmly in the community. Instead of holding their children at home taking care of their siblings or working in the fields for food/money for the family, the close connection also seem to oblige the parents to keep sending their children to school

The start of a project is always challenging. Not one project is the same, but there are some regulars. It always starts out with a request and a discussion pointing out their needs and wishes, and our aims for sustainable architecture with a functional and climate adapted design. After further research, if they accept our philosophy, the rest of the team agree and we have funds and time to complete it, it becomes a Gyaw Gyaw project.

Then, on site, another person in charge will most likely hand over a paper with a drawing of a big square concrete building – not adapted neither to the local traditions, nor the site or the climate – and then the real cooperation starts.

With few formal rules, it`s an expectation that local leaders can take care of everything. Their position is also reliant on the trust and respect of the people they lead. We need to respect this and make sure nobody looses face, but at the same time create frames for a common development of a functional, climate adapted and sustainable project that also involves the village.

As the balance in the village is constrained, the leaders suggestion and our plans can be turned into a common goal for a well adapted building. So also in this case.

We agreed upon using adobe as material for the new classrooms, but with project start close to rainy season, we could not complete it in one step. Timber was therefor chosen as load bearing element and we left the school with temporary bamboo walls for a season before finalising it the upcoming year. This also allowed us to invite and include international participants for a 10 days workshop: adobe and cultural exchange, completing the design and construction of adobe classrooms together with us.

The site is narrow, so placement of the building and size of the classrooms were given. The height of the roof was determined by the length of timber posts available, and is lower then we normally aim for. Even with conscious use of adobe walls and placement of windows for good airflow, it left the classrooms varmer and darker then desired. The teachers and villagers did not complain, but they agreed when we suggested to improve the conditions. By extending one of the sides of the roof, and remove the highest part of the cover from the opposite side, we created a roof covered gap for vertical airflow. We also changed the roof materials to insulated tin roof that keeps the temperature lower and reflects more light inside of the building.

Architectural description

The school building is based on a traditional timber post construction on a bamboo reinforced concrete slab. Adobe (local made mud-bricks) is placed as freestanding walls to avoid vertical meetings with the timber. In combination with bamboo details, a lifted roof is increasing the natural airflow, and thick adobe walls keep sunlight out and stabilise inside temperature for better learning conditions. The roof is insulated tin roof, bought in the nearest town of Mae Sot.


Built and designed by Gyaw Gyaw 2011 and with additional workshop participants 2012

10 weeks/380 000THB

Redesigned roof with new roof materials, replacement of bamboo works and a new coating layer done by Gyaw Gyaw in 2015

3 weeks/115 000THB

Contracting Authority: Primary School in Maw Kwee

Gyaw Gyaw Team 2011/2012: Line Ramstad (project manager),Phillipa, Peter, Pah Me, See Da Pah, Oo Klo, Ta Po Kwa, Ee Po Pah, Eh Thoo, Eh K´prue

Workshop participants 2012: Ingrid Neeraas Dahl/Christoffer Imislund/Ragnhild Førde/Audhild Svela/Hildegunn Haugen/Sverre Bjerkholt Aamlid/Helle Storvik/Luis Pedro Quinonez/Kaja Marie Vaselid/Gina Mas/Kristian Kopp/Albert Company Olmo/Jan Glasmeier.

Gyaw Gyaw Team 2015: Line, Peter and Ste Pha + Bee Ah Moe and Ta Kwa Poe

Parents, neighbours and villagers have contributed as volunteers and day labor.

Pictures by Franc Pillars López and Line Ramstad

Section I: Maw Kwee 2011 with traditional roof covered with concrete roof plates.
Section II: Maw Kwee 2015 with extended roof for improved vertical air flow. The roof cover is changed to insulated tin sheets that better insulate towards solar heat and reflect light inside.

Maw Kwee Primary School 2011


Facade Maw Kwee Primary School

Photo: Franc Pallarès López


Inside classroom.

Photo: Franc Pallarès López


Detail adobe meets timber construction. The school is constructed in a traditional timber construction with freestanding adobe walls. Since timber and adobe expands and decreases in different speeds, we have divided them completely to avoid vertical cracks.

Photo: Franc Pallarès López


Facade facing west with a more transparent bamboo facade for better light and natural airflow.

Photo: Franc Pallarès López


Sunset in Maw Kwee.

Photo: Franc Pallarès López

Maw Kwee Primary School 2015


Maw Kwee Primary School with new roof design and changed materials to insulated tin sheets.

Photo: Line Ramstad


The new roof gives better airflow and natural light to the classrooms.

Photo: Line Ramstad


Bamboo is a grass with limited lifespan. It is cheap and easy accessible, so the school can easily change this themselves, but when first there, we did some ekstra refurbishment and replaced the transparent bamboo wall with new bamboo sticks.

Photo: Line Ramstad


New roof.

Photo: Line Ramstad


Students hanging out on the half wall/adobe bench outside of their classroom.

Photo: Line Ramstad


New roof design for better vertical airflow.

Photo: Line Ramstad

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