Creating Curro


Location: Durbanville, Cape Town 

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Located to the north-east of Durbanville in the Western Cape, the site for Curro Durbanville School forms part of the larger urban plan for the Phesantekraal area. The site is accessed on the west side from two turning circles which had predetermined positions, providing the campus with main- and secondary access points. The campus borders the busy Okavango Road on the east side. Existing pylons with a 31m wide servitude cross the north end of the site, restricting development in this zone to parking and low-level planting. The site slopes down towards the south side where it borders a wetland area.

The brief called for a high-quality innovative school with a range of cultural and sports facilities.

It was important that the design process was not isolated to a single author. The scheme came together through a collaborative engagement with learners, teachers, and other consultants.

Learners were tasked with presenting their own ideas and initiatives for their ‘ideal’ new school. They expressed themselves through interactive drawing and model-building sessions, which presented our team with a unique client brief.

Further inspiration was drawn from the surrounding landscape and the mountains in the distance, the colour of the canola fields and the materiality of existing structures located on and around the site. The design emits an exciting take on form, texture, and scale.

The site was handed over to the main contractor at the beginning of November 2020, with completion of the school building approximately a year later at the end of 2021.

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Design concept, theoretical approach: 

Learning achieved through interactions is the basis of how a child develops. This is the essence of The Third Teacher. Its principles can be summarised as follows: Firstly, interactions with the adults in their lives (parents and teachers), secondly with peers, and thirdly through interaction with their surrounding environment – the physical space in which learners mature becomes The Third Teacher. The design aims to capture and promote the value of The Third Teacher in its layout, spatial qualities and finishes to create a positive, stimulating educational environment.

Space planning, masterplanning of the campus: 

A series of layout configurations were assessed for the overall campus. During this process, determining factors such as site conditions and constraints, accommodation requirements (programme), orientation of sport fields together with potential shade-cast of structures, connectivity between respective facilities, as well as the internal road link between the access points were taken into consideration to find the most suitable layout.

Space planning of the school building: 

The U-shaped building footprint frames the southern corner of the site, which formulates a forecourt defined by the auditorium and hall on either side. It ‘embraces’ the learners and visitors as they enter, while also acting as a protective buffer from the elements. Direct visual connection to the main entrance makes wayfinding easier for users.

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The building height was kept moderately low by spreading the accommodation over wider floor plates, thereby relating to the surrounding context of the existing- and planned urban skyline. The architecture is non-stylistic. It responds to site conditions such as climate, contours, accessibility, and connectivity, resulting in a site-specific design.

The conventional ‘school typology’ consisting of classrooms that are framed by four walls was challenged with the concept of constant interaction between spaces. The classes become permeable and adaptive with furniture, such as combinable tables, designed specifically for the hybrid and flexible use of each space. Diversity is emphasised through juxtaposed slanted columns and colours in this dynamic atrium learning space, embracing difference and uniqueness in a collective and safe environment.

Usually, the classroom is inclusive and private, hall and passages are semi-private, and the playground is the public space. Now, an art classroom opens into an atrium that can be turned into a gallery or exhibition area, also sharing space with the cafeteria. The cafeteria has a practical kitchen which is used for consumer studies by the hospitality learners. The consumer studies classroom is linked to the cafeteria as well. This type of design provides flexibility and hybrid use, essential for a school that will always be adapting to future needs.

The classrooms and laboratories are placed around an atrium and internal courtyard space respectively, allowing for daylight to filter into these spaces. Organically shaped walkways which host collaboration spaces, together with slanted columns and colourful interior elements create visual interest and a sense of playfulness and difference.

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The school has been crafted through a learner-centric approach using collaborative and investigative processes. As construction of the school building neared the finish line, the layering of finishes and furniture enhanced the concept of ‘The Third Teacher’ in the designed spaces.

Overall, the school responds to the site through its sustainability considerations and non-stylized architecture. Ultimately, the building’s success will rely on the successful incorporation of its users, shifting from the conventional to flexible and interactive learning spaces.

Material used

Architect Louis Khan once told his students: ‘If you are ever stuck for inspiration, ask your materials for advice’.

This philosophy was considered throughout the design process, resulting in a rich and robust material palette with innovative applications thereof. Patterned brick work acts as a wayfinding method at entrances while contributing to the aesthetics of the building. The auditorium is clad in sheet metal which forms a prominent node at the main entrance.

Off-shutter concrete roofs link the programme components (auditorium, classroom spaces and hall). This finish is pulled through to the interiors and complimented with the warmth of natural wood elements.

Flow of the building

The overall layout is strategically arranged with the more public spaces on the main access side (parking, forecourt, hall with viewing deck towards the cricket oval, auditorium, and the administration component) and the private secure spaces on the south side (dance and drama studios, music rooms, cafeteria, laboratories, and classrooms). The dynamic plan layout enhances flow of users in- and through the building.

Meet the team:

Architect: BPAS Architects

Landscape architecture: cndv landscape architects

Structural, civil and electrical engineering: KLS Consulting Engineers

Mechanical and fire engineering: FMWE Consulting Engineers

Quantity surveyor: Calcoli

Acoustic engineering: Mackenzie-Hoy

Audio visual consultant: PJK

Interior design: B-Sense and ORC

Electrical installations: Harris Electrical

Main Contractor: MNK Projects


Bricks: Corobrik – 011 871 8600

Vinyl flooring: Polyflor – 011 609 3500

Sanware: Geberit – 011 444 5070

Aluminium shopfront, glass, skylights & sunscreens: Go Green – 021 945 1156

Flooring: Flowcrete021 551 7885

Tiling: Rako  


Lecico – 021 531 9848

Cobra – 0861 21 21 21

Cafeteria and consumer science kitchen equipment: Catermarket021 949 7325

Oak veneer atrium seating: African Heartwood082 559 1029

OSB fire cabinets: Unique Kitchens – 021 981 9393

Ironmongery: Dormakaba – 011 510 1500

Lighting: Regent Lighting Solutions021 552 7622

Ceilings and partitions: Saint Gobain – 012 657 2800

Acoustic ceilings: OWA – 021 531 7511

Pavers: C.E.L Paving Products – 021 905 5998

Waterproofing: GP Koning – 021 703 9544

Bathroom cubicles: Façade Projects – 021 905 4474

Artificial turf, landscaping and sport fields: Turftech 087 087 4168

Sport, tennis courts, paving & landscaping: Trompie Group – 086 123 5296

Structural steel: Triomf Staalwerke – 021 862 1630

Shopfitting, data & security installations: GRIT Procurement Solutions -012 741 3460

Roof & acoustic insulation: ISOboard – 021 983 1140

BPAS Architects


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