Massama , sierra leone
Project Build Length: 4 Weeks
Project Leaders: Samantha Litherland and Harry Thorpe
International Participants: David Mahon, Patricia Ntagoma Cinama, Toyosi Kukoyi, Jonathan Mead, Adi Scott, Dan Jones, Jen and Simon David
Project Partners: The Kambia District Foundation
Project Donors: Jen and Simon David, Kirsty Shore, Dan Jones, The Kambia District Foundation, Peter Litherland, Isabel Litherland
Photographs: Samantha Litherland and Adi Scott
The Simon Jen Primary School of Masama was the first school in the village of Masama for over a century. A vision, funded and lead by Simon and Jen David - founders of the Kambia District Foundation, the school provides free education for approximately 400 students between the ages of 4-11, whilst employing seven local teachers. The school itself consists of a building with six classrooms, two toilet blocks and a well. Students are provided desks, blackboards, stationary, and equipment. Due to the huge demand for education and the large numbers of children in the local area, the school is wildly oversubscribed, with some classes consisting of over 80 students.
'We enter to learn, leave to achieve'. - The Simon Jen Primary School aptly chosen motto.
Villagers and international participants worked with the CAUKIN Team, in partnership with The Kambia District Foundation to build the playground, which will provide the vital opportunities these young children need to explore, challenge and enjoy themselves in a safe environment. A combination of local skill and knowledge of the materials we had sourced nearby and the enthusiasm and rigorous planning of the CAUKIN Team and international participants worked perfectly bringing about onsite discussions and in-situ design decisions.
With a concrete ‘S’ bending strip foundation, for the timber footings and raised square portals to sit on, there is a nice contrast of heavy concrete and light timber gently resting above. Between all the timber structure is a range of, again locally sourced, play materials. This includes hit and miss cladding - giving glimpses of the outdoor surroundings, dark plywood tunnels with fun shaped cut outs, rope nets and swings as well as tyre runs and seats throughout! The form and style of the laminated structure creates a very unique aesthetic that isn’t found anywhere in the local vernacular or in the country! The playground was designed to be personal to the site. The trees were identified as an important reference point, and source of natural shading. The design aimed to make the building truly stand out whilst being completed on a small budget with local materials.
Playgrounds are spaces for children to dare, to explore, to challenge themselves and to enjoy their lively youth. To be able to create a space that will allow hundreds of children the opportunity to do this in a safe and secure environment is something that can never be understated. This project is about creating a striking and clever playground design that will inspire children to play but it is also to inspire those around it - the adults - to see what can be achieved with team work and the tools and materials they have available to them. Moreover it will hopefully act as a clear indicator and example of the importance of play and the difference it can make in a child’s growth and education.
We would like to say a huge thank you to all those that contributed to this project by way of donation, supply of materials or just a helping hand! A special mention to Dan Ball/Josh Williams at Centrespace Design for their ongoing support- we couldn’t do this without it!
The design consists of a series of pre-fabricated square frames, comprising two layers of local timber (Gmelina Arborea) that were tirelessly laminated together to create double strength frames. These square portals were then arranged to form a snaking extended ‘slinky’ that weaved its way between the existing palm trees, in the school fields, and up the deceptively steep sloping land. As the slinky made its way to the school it takes an abrupt stop and begins its accent vertically - creating the first tower. The bending frames cranking upwards towards the sky, with plenty of climbing apparatus incorporated for the children to explore. Once at the top of the 5.5m high tower you are now able to look out in all directions and survey the incredibly lush jungle that surrounds the school. Once steadied, it is over the narrow connecting bridge to the second of the two towers. This tower then proceeds to curve back down towards the earth and plummet directly back to solid ground through a series of horizontally suspended frames.