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Is there an essential space to the School?

Caption: Courtesy of Vin varavarn Architects.

Varudh Varavarn

When discussing about “essential spaces” in schools, a variety of images may come to mind: spacious(modern) school buildings in eco-friendly environment, high-quality teachers, well-equipped classrooms, efficient internet connections, all being used enthusiastically  by happy and healthy students.

The schools I have opportunities to work with are far from these ideal situa-tions. They tend to be located in remote places or hidden in inaccessible areas. Their wildest dreams for essential learning spaces do not venture beyond having basic classroom with simple desks and chairs, clean food and water, and being sheltered from heat, rain and natural disasters.

These schools exist in many parts of the world. Some have long suffered from the nature of their locations such as being in inaccessible mountainous ranges or being in communities surrounded by water. Others may be the direct consequences of certain sudden natural disasters. In these schools, the students may not even understand how “architects” or “architecture” can help to improve their lives.
For me, I have come to realize that the concepts of “essential/ideal” school spaces differ widely between well-endowed urban schools and disadvantaged rural schools.

For urban schools, the parents expect and are willing to support the schools to have all the facilities necessary for a holistic development of their children. The functions of the schools in remote rural communities, however, extend beyond being a learning place only for the young. The schools must also provide common spaces for the entire community for meeting, cultural events and all forms of activities. We have discovered from our experiences that by creating a conducive environment within the school, we are also reaching out to enhance the quality of life of the community and in turn, bringing about positive impacts upon the children.

Having worked with schools in many localities, I have come to appreciate their unique characters , needs and concerns, quite similar to the rich diversities we can find among children. Influenced by their specific environmental conditions and upbringing, children possess different personalities, interests, talents , potentials and require suitable developmental supports. For these reasons, in designing the “essential spaces” for the schools, we cannot impose any “One size fits all”  concepts but must fully understand the special conditions of each school, and the ecosystem which encompasses the students, the teachers, the parents and the communities.

M.L. Varudh Varavarn received his AA Diploma/ RIBA from the Architectural Associa-tion School of Architecture (AA), London, and established his own practice Vin Vara-varn Architects (VVA) in 2005, based in Bangkok, Thailand. Apart from his normal office projects, Varudh believes in taking part with social and community improvement, and devotes himself with different Non-profit organizations and foundations to design schools and low-cost housing in remote areas around Thailand.

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