Designed by the Durban based East Coast Architects, Vele Secondary School is located in the mountainous region of the Vhembe District in South Africa’s Limpopo Province.
This once dilapidated rural school was rebuilt as part of the Creating Schools initiative, where the school not only plays a critical role in the life of the community in this remote area, but also based its development on their input.
Students went from being taught under trees, exposed to the rain and harsh African sun, to sitting in classrooms that were designed to best take advantage of natural heating and cooling systems. Students at Vele understand the principles of permaculture and help to maintain the school gardens, using rainwater to keep the plants nourished. They also have a greater sense of community and know that the school is there not only for their benefit, but also so that the community as a whole can grow.
The school was a recipient of the 2012 AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture, which recognizes buildings that are the result of an integrated approach to architecture, natural systems and technology. These buildings show that design and sustainability can – and should – be mutually reinforcing.