Malawi’s children win at the straw game

Malawi school Malawi-11

Malawi, sandwiched between Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique, is a small, landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of the least developed nations in the world but considered ‘the warm heart of Africa’. The latter refers to the friendliness and the generosity of its people.


85% of the more than 18 million Malawi inhabitants live in rural areas and the economy, the little that exists, is largely based on agriculture. The country has a hesitantly budding tourism industry and Malawi could benefit from some more economic activities to bring it forward.


The government focuses on improving not only the economy but the education, healthcare, and environment. In this spirit, the idea of NUDE, a progressive architectural firm, hit the mark. With a ‘bottom-up’ design process, they are proposing a new secondary school.


The approach to utilize local materials, vernacular architecture, and sustainable technologies resonate beautifully with the East African community who loves to get involved and envisions a strong, bright future for their children.


The construction focus is on modularity with a possibility of incremental expansion of the school. The light-filled buildings integrate local infill straw bales in each space for additional light and ventilation. They serve as breathable skins for classrooms, administration buildings, the computer rooms, library, laboratory, and research areas.

Large outdoor spaces cater to the Malawians’ joy of dancing, gathering, and participating in other outdoor activities and offer an environment to maximize indoor-outdoor learning. Spaces for animals and multipurpose spaces as well as residential compounds for students and teachers complete the secondary school’s project.

The construction of the main buildings is facilitated with the straw bales for easy repairs and future maintenance as local craftsmen are familiar with the materials. The buildings seamlessly fit into the landscape and provide an encouraging learning environment.

Read more about Africa: Design Competition South Africa, interior design hub Tangier, and African Union of Architects.

Source: Photos are courtesy of NUDE and Africanism.

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