A new school in the sprawling Nairobi slum of Kibera stands in striking contrast to the informal settlement that surrounds it: the building’s white polycarbonate roof and colorful steel-pipe structure suggest a jungle gym more than an educational facility, and give it a profile that’s easy to spot among thousands of weathered metal roofs. Designed by Madrid-based SelgasCano and Boston-based helloeverything, the fanciful building replaces a dilapidated school that formerly occupied the site.
José Selgas and Lucía Cano were introduced to Kibera when they visited Kenya for a different project, a vaccination clinic in the Turkana region they designed in collaboration with their students at MIT. So when the Louisiana Museum in Denmark approached the architects and their former students (who had since founded helloeverything) in late 2014 and asked them to recreate the Turkana clinic as a pavilion for their campus, the architects decided to use the commission as an opportunity to model a new project instead. This would not just be a folly but a structure that could be disassembled and transported elsewhere, to be put to use after the exhibition was over. For the project, the team used the same scaffolding components they had employed in Turkana—materials similar to those used in domestic constructions across Africa—to create their pavilion and future primary school in Kibera. The firms coordinated the replacement with Nairobi-based architect Abdul Fatah Adam and the Kibera Hamlets community organization.