Set in the picturesque Durbanville wine valley on the outskirts of Cape Town, Vissershok Primary School is a rural school where most pupils are children of farm workers and underprivileged communities living in Du Noon, a poverty-stricken township several kilometres away. The Vissershok Container Classroom, sponsored by three South African companies: Woolworths, Safmarine and AfriSam, is a 12m recycled container converted into an independent classroom for 25 Grade R (age 5-6) pupils.
The first phase of the project started with a design competition called 'Making the Difference through Design'. Run by Woolworths annually, the competition is aimed at introducing design to local high school pupils. This year the brief called for creative solutions on how a recycled container can be adapted to help under-resourced schools.The winner of the competition, Marshaarn Brink, is a Grade 10 pupil (age 15) that delighted the jury with his playful ideas of an outdoor jungle gym and several sensible storage solutions for the container. The ideas were translated by Tsai Design Studio into a final design that also takes the site conditions and environmental factors into consideration.
Built with limited means and budget, the final product incorporated four elements designed to maximise its usage:
Learning Area, Grade R: Pupils use the container as their classroom in the morning, which then doubles as a small library in the afternoon for the rest of the school. A big sheltering roof insulates the recycled container from direct sunlight, while the gap in-between acts as heat buffer that reduces heat gain. Cross ventilation is achieved by a series of colourful windows on both side of the container.
Gathering Area: The steep site offered an opportunity to extend the patio with stepped seating, something the school lacked, for pupils to sit outside during lunch and socialise. The amphitheatre will also serve as an assembly area for the school.
Play Area: Marshaan Brink’s concept for the play area was adapted to be part of the container like a pair of outstretched arms. The steel frames extend outwards to hold play equipment for the younger kids.
Growing Area: A green wall, in the guise of a vertical vegetable garden, shelters the play area from the prevailing South Easterly wind. A large area adjacent to the container classroom was cleared and turned into a vegetable garden. Besides been educational, the garden will allow the school to have fresh produce to add to their feeding program.