Senegal Elementary School "Sambou Toura Drame" in Marsassoum

Humanitarian architecture to improve people's wellness. An ARCHSTORMING architecture competition. An inspiring collaboration journey with DH inclusive architecture.


Archstorming is a platform dedicated to humanitarian architecture competitions. Their philosophy fits nicely with my personal vision as an architect and how architecture can be used to improve people's awareness and wellness.

[...] Archstorming seeks to improve humanitarian issues - disaster relief, poverty, conflicts, diseases, etc. - through architecture.
​Given the harsh realities and environments faced by many people in need, architecture in these situations must serve the all-important fundamental needs of shelter, warmth, access to clean water, education, and a place to build a family and community.
In order to do so, we create humanitarian architecture competitions that can prove the world how designs can go beyond the building's walls and become a mechanism to achieve positive changes in the community and improve people's wellness. [...]

Our Design

The underlying concept of the total plan is based on traditional African round houses. The school is organized as a little village with classrooms and additional functions around a central courtyard, the playground, the heart of the school. The school is divided into a north and a south wing, which makes it easy to build in two phases.

The layout is based on an orthogonal grid in multiples of 40 cm. The grid makes it easy to measure the plotting construction. The classroom sizes are all identical and based on a square floor plan. Each room is 800 cm wide by 800 cm long. The in-between-space is flexible and can be used for multiple purposes. The window openings can be positioned randomly within the grid. The plan allows a certain flexibility in which the grid acts as a guideline.

As an extension of the outdoor playground, we created a roofed multipurpose space that can be used as an outdoor kitchen/canteen. By a spiral staircase one can reach a second floor that can be used as a quiet space, sitting area and/or library. It’s an open space that easily can adjust to the needs of the school program.

The earth itself as the main ingredient creates the perfect blend between the building and the surrounding area. To build with local materials and with a minimum of waste, makes it possible to create a healthy and natural environment for the children. Grounded on a natural stone foundation, the floors and walls are constructed with a rammed earth building technique.

Besides the square footprint of the classrooms, the roof structure is also based on a geometrical form. The roofs are constructed as flat-topped pyramids in different heights but all in the same 50 degrees angle. The flat top is open and covered with a lifted and translucent roof lantern. The roof lantern promotes a natural ventilation circulation. A modern made, traditional thatched roof strengthens the natural appearance and is also a proven weatherproof solution.

The round houses on three sides of the building site, provide shelter to the offices, the corral and the latrines. The idea is to use dry composting toilets to reduce water consumption. The roofs on top of the round volumes act like funnels to enable rainwater harvesting.


Our design has not made it to the finalist selection, but we are very happy and satisfied with the result we were able to create during an inspiring collaboration journey! We will receive a certificate of participation and our design will be published in the book of the competition. In the meantime we keep up the good work, so stay tuned, because we think maybe in the (near) future it certainly is worth repeating!
Deborah Holthuizen ~ DH inclusive architecture
Lonnie Koken ~ architecture + design

Design 2020.
Presentation November 25th 2020.