Mat-ter’s Storm Resistant School Design on Dwell


A Storm-Resistant School Concept in the Philippines

MAY 21, 2014
One studio’s response to Typhoon Haiyan for a multi-purpose, storm-resistant school in an affected area of the Philippines.
SLIDESHOWmat-ter school concept bird's eye view
“Typhoon winds are unpredictable and can change direction anytime, as it was in the case of Haiyan. Realizing this affected our design decision to give our building its curved form that is aerodynamic in all directions,” says designer Christin To. “Both the aerodynamic form of the roof and the internal organization of the spaces were derived from the concept of resilient geometries found in nature, such as the morphogenesis of biological cell structures and self-organizing patterns of atoms.”

Just six months ago, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines with over 6 million people displaced from their homes and 4,500 schools destroyed. MAT-TER, a design studio based outside of L.A., has responded to an open-source design challenge by Open Online Academy (OOAc) with a typhoon-resistant school that not only serves an immediate local need, but also presents a concept that forwards the disaster prevention debate.

MAT-TER’s proposal for Guiuan National High School aims to serve 1,000 students and the city of Guiuan by serving as a community center and a space of safe, mass shelter for Haiyan-paralleled natural disasters. According to Christin To, MAT-TER co-founder, “Most buildings predominantly failed in their roofs.” This analysis inspired a curved geometrical roof form that is “brought down to the ground to create a continuous aerodynamic surface that resists high winds.” The design is composed of internal modular units of different scales that fit together on a uniform structural grid under the roof. The school is mostly built out of bamboo—an accessible and sustainable material in the Philippines that is strong enough to withstand typhoons, earthquakes, and floods.

To credits the OOAc for expediting the design process, suggesting that the open-source collaboration is perhaps “one way of improving upon how we can think about architecture in general,” especially when circumstances dictate fast action. “It is clear that we are not moving fast enough, and even if there are projects out there that had been designed for disaster-resilient and -prevention purposes, we are not seeing enough of them implemented,” To says. “In that sense, we are all failing as a global community.”

Currently, the school is being presented to government officials and organizations for funding. At the same time, the design will have more impact beyond Guiuan. The project is now also a malleable and accessible open-source prototype via OOAc for Resilient and Sustainable School Design to be used for other disaster-prone areas across the globe.

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