Sra Pou Vocational School 
by Rudanko + Kankkunen


Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

This school in Cambodia by Finish architects Rudanko + Kankkunen was built by the local community from hand-dried blocks of the surrounding soil.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

The Sra Pou vocational school serves as a business training centre and public hall.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

Small gaps in brickwork allow soft natural light and breezes to flow through the building, while colourful woven shutters open the indoor teaching areas onto a shaded terrace.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

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Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

Photography is by Rudanko + Kankkunen.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

Here is some text from the architects:

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

Sra Pou vocational school is a vocational training center and community building in Sra Pou village, Cambodia. The school is designed by architects Rudanko + Kankkunen from Finland and built during spring 2011. The architects took care of both building design and project management.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

The purpose of the vocational training centre is to encourage and teach poor families to earn their own living. The Sra Pou community is one of the unprivileged communities in Cambodia, who have been evicted from their homes in the city to the surrounding countryside. They lack basic infrastructure, decent built environment and secure income. The new vocational school provides professional training and helps the people to start sustainable businesses together. It is also a place for public gathering and democratic decision-making for the whole community. A local NGO organizes the teaching.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

The project was started by young architects Hilla Rudanko and Anssi Kankkunen in an Aalto university design studio in spring 2010. During the studio, they travelled to Cambodia to find a design task with a local NGO. The studio works were imaginary, but Rudanko and Kankkunen decided to organize the construction of Sra Pou vocational school, since there was an urgent need for it and their design inspired both the community and donors. The firm Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen was founded during the design process. Now, it is an adventurous architecture firm specializing in public buildings in various settings.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

The school building is made out of local materials with local workforce. The aim was to teach people how to make the most out of the materials that are easily available, so that they can apply the same construction techniques for their own houses in the future.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

As the materials are scarce, the beautiful red soil was utilized to make sundried soil blocks. The whole school is hand-made: no machines or prefabricated parts were used in the building work. This allowed employing many people from the community, and it kept all techniques simple and transferable.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

Using local materials and techniques, the designers have created a beautiful architectural composition. The soil block walls repeat the warm red shade of the surrounding earth. They are laid out with small holes, so that indirect sunlight and gentle wind come in to cool the spaces - and at night, the school glows like a lantern through these small openings. The whole community space is open, providing comfortable shaded outdoor space. The colorful handicraft doors are visible from far away and welcome visitors coming along the main road.

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

Click above for larger image

Location : Sra Pou, Oudong, Cambodia
Function : Vocational training and small business centre
Client : Sra Pou community, represented by Blue Tent NGO
Floor area : 200 m2
Construction cost: USD 15 000
Main material: Hand-made sundried soil block
Completed: 04/2011

Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen

Click above for larger image

Architect: Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen
Structural advisor: Advancing Engineering Consultants
Construction management: Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen
Project and financial management: Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen
Donors: M.A.D., ISS Finland, Wienerberger, Ecophon / Saint-Gobain, Uulatuote, and Puuinfo.

  • David Week

    This is artistically a very pretty building. Whether it works or not is another matter. Why are timber structural members exposed to the elements? Why are those same elements embedded in mud? Why, in a tropical monsoon climate, are two-storey walls unprotected at their lower levels? Why the covering for openings, in this same climate, made only from translucent fabric? Where are the lessons drawn from the local Cambodian architecture, which has none of these "features"? Why does that no-one question the premise that Cambodians need architects to fly in from Finland to teach them how to build?

    • yuc

      You may be right from the technical point of view, although I believe a certain aloowance should be left for aging. As for the Europeans' teaching architecture to non-Western people, I doubt it. They (young architects from North) may be after learning architecture themselves. So why not?

    • hugo

      as you can probably imagine, this is part of an academic project. part of a program to familiarize western students ( for the most part), with the problems of poor countries. It is not that Finnish architects are telling Cambodians how to build. I would say that it is the other way around. The Finnish students have to learn to process of building in a radically different climate, which would explain the deficiencies that you have pointed out.

  • yuc

    This is definetely a low-carbon building, but they didn't even need to mention it.

  • Bravdesign

    Architects should be focusing more in this kind of Architecture not only for developing countries but also around the world. Because we can do great works with few materials and a small budget. There are many great examples!

    That should be the main message that the Architects community should be transmitting to the world, that Architect can and should be for everyone. The Modern Movement was incisive in this ideal approach, but soon it was lost to profit. Nowadays Architecture just seems to be all about extravagance and luxuries and by continuing to do so, the great majority of Architects will never be able to design a single building because the market is extremely closed.

    We should focus more on doing real work for real needs, whether they're at our local community or in any developing country. There's still so much to be done…

  • Mr Rui

    I should care about rainwater harvesting, seen on drawing. It reminds me of being home to human seeking winged parasites.

    I'll save this article, to me it's about crafts bringing hope to making mews, company and pavilion like buildings that low cost to build.

    There are no vandals arround, wich is also uplifting from where I stand. It looks like a remote community, that now learns about the urban community. Chances are they'll just roam somewhere else.

  • Red Pill Junkie

    I would like to know how long it took for the building to be completed, and how many people were involved.

  • Laura Skeeters

    I think it is one of the most elegant and humbling buildings I have seen in recent times.
    It is beautiful, brings joy to the community, elevated the local population to higher standards and enrich the students involved in it. It maybe not forever, but I don't think this was the intention of the project.
    Love it!

  • Duncan Stuart

    The question about "foreign architects" should be put in perspective. A lot of what take as "traditional" Cambodian architecture is based on French influence from 80 years ago. This offers a fresh inspiration – no bad thing in a country that, in the absence (post Pol Pot) of architects relies heavily on old models that are not necessarily efficient, aesthetic, functional in that hot climate, or appropriate to modern life – be it in a village or in the growing urban areas.

    We built a school 6 years ago, and the building design was drawn ion the abck of an envelope – the entire template being the classroom design of the 1920s (French l'ecole inspired) and the classrooms are hot and noisy (little plastered-brick echo chambers!) In other words quite standard Cambodian classrooms.

    New inspirations, new concepts can enrich the dialogue about design – and can put architecture on the agenda. But we shouldn't imagine that all current local architecture represents generations of cultural refinement and wisdom.

  • Hans Hartz

    Reminds me of Gando Primary School of Berlion-based architect Francis Kéré in Burkina Faso.….