By Elizabeth Hopkirk
Somalilandsun – RA Projects has designed a new boarding school for Sheikh, a small highland town in northern Somalia.
It will aim to to prepare Somalis for top universities around the world and will contain international-standard teaching facilities including classrooms, labs, and accommodation for students.
RA Projects was appointed to design the new school in keeping with the nation’s modernist tradition. It is funded by a former Apple executive based in the UAE, himself part of the Somali diaspora. Work could start on site early next year.
Sheikh was once renowned as the home of a colonial-era school known as the Eton of Somaliland. Sheikh School, which was equipped with impressive facilities and whose alumni include the current president of Somaliland, is still operating but suffered badly during the civil war.
The town is officially part of war-ravaged Somalia but it is also in the northwestern region of Somaliland which declared independence in 1991 and has been operating succcesfully ever since as a quasi-state with its own government.
“It would be very difficult to pull off such a project in south central Somalia because of the politics and local conditions,” said Rashid Ali, founder of RA Projects which was shortlisted for BD’s Young Architect of the Year Award in 2011.
“But Somaliland is stable and the government is keen to facilitate projects like this so the land comes free.
“It’s a really great project,” added Ali, a Londoner born in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, who was behind a photographic exhibition of Mogadishu held at west London’s Mosaic Rooms last year.
“We’re working with a great client who wants a fantastic piece of architecture that builds on the country’s modernist architectural legacy.”
The school’s functions and spaces will be organised in a compact, irregular manner, mimicking the common spaces of Somali villages, with sunken courtyards of different intimacies framing the surrounding landscape, he said.
The material is predominantly exposed insitu concrete stained the colour of the local soil. Brise soleil is used along shaded walkways in homage to Somalia’s modernist traditions.