Collaborative venture in first-time win

A collaborative project to construct a school in rural southern Africa has won the 2017 Panerai Design Miami/Visionary Award.

The awards, which were established in 2014, recognise individuals who have made a significant contribution to the field of design. Supported by Officine Panerai, which was founded in Florence in 1860 as a workshop, shop and school of watchmaking, the accolade pays tribute to visionaries who have made a continued and lasting impact on the world of design.

This year’s winner, Mwabwindo School, is a new primary school located in southern Zambia that is set to welcome its first generation of students in 2018. The project is a collaborative venture for: 14+ Foundation, New York; Selldorf Architects, New York; and artist Rashid Johnson, with commissioned furniture by Christ & Gantenbein, Basel. This is the first year since the awards were introduced that a collaborative initiative has won the prize.

Mwabwindo School is the second learning facility in the region to be developed by 14+ Foundation, a non-profit organisation committed to increasing access to education in rural African communities by developing, building and operating schools in hard-to-reach areas.

The school’s design is by Selldorf Architects, New York, whose creatives drew inspiration from the tall trees that dot the surrounding savanna landscape and also serve as shaded gathering spaces for communities. The main building will house up to 200 students in classrooms arranged around courtyards and covered by a large corrugated metal roof canopy. Housing for eight teachers, a vegetable garden and playing fields will also be part of the project.

A unique feature is the handmade bricks fabricated on site, while the buildings will be constructed by local masons, providing economic sustenance, as well as training opportunities. The school has sustainability at its core, since rainwater will be collected regularly for use in the garden, and solar panels are set to provide energy for both the school and teachers’ housing. A windmill will power the facility’s well water. Renowned American artist, Rashid Johnson, will create a site-specific mural in collaboration with Mwabwindo School students, highlighting the importance that will be given to art-based educational projects and programmes.

The Mwabwindo School project embraces the spirit of the Panerai Design Miami/ Visionary Award, offering a continued, tangible and lasting impact by building a community through design, according to Angelo Bonati, chief executive of Officine Panerai.

“We are excited that this year’s recipients are so aligned with the core values of Panerai’s culture of design, commitment to innovation and vision for a sustainable future,” he said. “The Mwabwindo project represents the best of our community coming together to create real change through design.”

Previous laureates include Yves Béhar (2015) and SHoP Architects, New York (2016). The 2017 Panerai Design Miami/ Visionary Award will be presented at a ceremony to be held in December during Design Miami, a global forum for design, which takes place alongside the Art Basel fairs in Miami, Florida, in December and Basel, Switzerland, in June.

by Anastasia Nysten

Featured image: so swishy in her satin and tat by Mike and Doug Starn, 2017, courtesy of Cristina Grajales Gallery.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Letters From The Past #43 pages 118-121.