Selgascano designed pavilion transformed into school for Kenya’s Kibera slum

A colourful pavilion designed by Spanish studio Selgascano has been shipped from a Copenhagen art museum to Africa’s largest slum, where it now serves as a school for 600 orphaned children.

The pavilion constructed by José Selgas and Lucía Cano at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art has been rebuilt in Kibera, part of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

In its new role as a school, it is intended to demonstrate how architecture can make a big difference to the world’s poorest communities.

“Architecture and design isn’t just about looking nice, it is about making a difference to people’s lives,” said Rohan Silva, co-founder, Second Home, one of the partners in the project. “It can change people’s behaviour, it can support development, it can help the poorest,” he told.

Selgas and Cano, Second Home, as well as architects Helloeverything and AbdulFatah Adam to plan a socially minded second life for the pavilion.

The structure which is made from chipboard, sheets of polycarbonate plastic and scaffolding was dismantled and packed up into shipping containers for transport. After a six week delay, the containers finally arrived at its destination. SelgasCano then led the building’s reconstruction, with help from a team of 20 local labourers.

Now complete, the building has become a landmark for the local community, according to Silva. As well as creating a school that children love, it has become a venue for evening and weekend events, as well as a focal points for donors and charities.

“We rightly celebrate buildings like the David Chipperfield gallery in Wakefield or the Sage in Gateshead, because we think that great design and architecture will encourage people to go the area, spend money and invest. And it’s exactly the same here,” said Silva. “That feedback loop is clearly happening in Kibera and the headmaster is so happy about that,” he added.

Madrid-based Selgascano have also worked on several socially focused projects, ranging from a street sports facility in Spain to a vaccination clinic elsewhere in Kenya.

“Selgascano, as a practice, are really hands on, they never wanted to have and never will have more than 20 employees because they always want to be hands on with projects. Being part of that very physical process of building is very important to them.” added Silva.


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