Every 5th of October, the world celebrates World Teacher’s Day to show gratitude, acknowledge the great hard work, and emphasize the value of teachers. The Philippines is just one of the more than 100 nations, including India, the United States, Canada, and Australia, that mark the day with sincerity. This celebration also highlights the numerous issues that surround the teachers themselves and the profession as well. Teachers are one of the most diligent individuals yet most of the time they’re either underpaid or unappreciated. And with today’s challenges brought by the pandemic, UNESCO’s theme for 2021 is “Teachers at the Heart of Education Recovery”, recognizing the teacher’s tireless efforts to continue teaching in whatever possible manner even in these difficult times.
With the aspiration of being able to take good care of their teachers, whom most came from other towns and provinces, a well-established school in Mandaue City envisioned providing them not just a decent accommodation but a living space that they can call home. The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Home is a 4-storey dormitory situated on a 556 square meter lot that houses up to 50 bedrooms. Designed by Visionary Studio Architects, the design calls for the attempt at negotiating two seemingly conflicting goals. “First, we wanted to create a space that would provide dignity for the teachers, and this could be achieved through privacy or by providing each teacher a space to call their own. And second, we had to overcome the need to create a sense of community, to encourage interaction within and help them build a strong support system for each other,” says lead architect, Jason Anthony Chua.
A unique porous façade was introduced in the design. This allowed for natural ventilation to continuously permeates throughout the building. Strategically located pocket openings and clerestory louvers are incorporated allowing maximum entry and flow of natural light and ventilation within the structure. Another feature was the louvered windows seen on the middle part of the façade where the communal spaces are also located. These windows pivot 180 degrees at a central hinge allowing users to control the amount of entry of air. The diagonal patterns on the panels are not only aesthetically pleasing but it minimizes water seepage during strong typhoons.
As the outside wind penetrates the structure of the dormitory, it is directed to the central courtyard where the distribution of air within is being balanced. The private spaces were also located around the central courtyard giving direct access to a bright and airy communal space. The addition of indoor landscaping in the area provides a relaxing retreat for the teachers where they could recharge, unwind, and recuperate.
Addressing privacy, instead of squeezing in small rooms with their own toilets to achieve the client’s requirement of 50 rooms, the architects introduced the concept of the “shared” unit. This “shared” unit allows each teacher to have their rooms while sharing a common bathroom. Aside from the comfort it gives, the teachers can enjoy a bigger room and also lessen the number of required bathroom fixtures, saving on construction costs.
Providing access to a sense of community is achieved in the dormitory through the multiple communal spaces such as the central courtyard and resting areas located at the front side. This encourages interaction between teachers and helps them build strong relationships that will translate into positive effects on their emotions as they nurture the next generation of professionals and leaders. Openness and visual connection are also maintained all throughout the hallways and stairwells fostering familiarity and creating opportunities for cheerful encounters.
Completed in February 2020, this Cebu dormitory is a blessing in disguise for the teachers that they have a nice place to stay during the unexpected lockdown period. Called the Faculty Home, the school posted on their website last July 2020 an update on the welfare of their teachers that they play, work, learn and pray together. They have truly become one family, sharing their lives within the corners of the dormitory.
Drawings and images courtesy of Visionary Studio Architects ©