Desa Mahkota is a national secondary school designed to accommodate up to 1200 students and up to 60 teaching staff. It is located on an elevated 1.8 hectare urban site in Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur. The school has a built-up area of 13,000 m² with multi-purpose hall, classrooms, science and IT laboratories, library canteen and administration rooms.
The school is planned in linear strips arranged in shifting parallels. The tight site means that the school partly needs to be a high-rise structure in order to meet the space requirements. The teaching blocks are arranged in ascending heights with the lowest along the front and the tallest towards the rear. This strategy ensures that the building retains its human scale upon approach.
Desa Mahkota School seeks to improve the standard typology typically found in Malaysia. Like its predecessor, the new school’s classrooms, labs and offices are stringed along open corridors one side and are fully glazed on the other. This means that rooms are naturally well ventilated and brightly lit. Here, classrooms are single banked, and have openings on the windward and leeward side, allowing cross ventilation to occur. In the tropics, east and western facade are generally more problematic to shade due to the direct exposure to morning and afternoon sun. This school avoids the problem by having all windows and door openings face north and south. Ceiling fans are used to increase the movement of air in a room. Fins and overhangs on all north facades and open corridors on the south facades help shade rooms from direct sunlight and reduce glare.
Ceilings and floors are deliberately left bare, exposing their structural concrete surfaces, so that their thermal mass can help regulate daytime temperatures. For example, heat is absorbed by the concrete slabs during the day and released during the night when the classrooms are not in use. Rooms are naturally ventilated during the night to remove the released heat from the space. Industrialised building systems are used in the fabrication of structures. Concrete floors, columns and beams are prefabricated off site and brought to the site for assembly. This approach saves time and cost and allows workmanship standards to be kept high during construction.
In the Desa Mahkota School, linear building volumes of different heights and lengths arranged in a serrated manner automatically create courtyards of varying character. Each courtyard is further distinguished by the different colours assigned to the building facades. They play a major role in keeping spaces cool during the day, especially when the natural landscape has fully matured. They provide a cool respite and soften the angular geometry of the building blocks, making them feel less institutional.
In terms of space planning, the school seeks to create an open communication where the experience of moving through the school is particularly rich experience. A continuous series of ‘common’ or ‘public’ spaces made up of corridors, multipurpose hall, informal play area and canteen become places for school children to play and socialise. These linked spaces are considered an ‘architectural promenade’ where a lot of informal teaching and interaction between students will take place. This promenade acts as a communication, supervision and social artery closely linked to the academic rooms and green spaces of the courtyards.
Desa Mahkota School is equipped with water harvesting system where rainwater is stored and used to water the school’s garden. The school also employs minimal hard surfaces with permeable pavements and grass pavers for the roads and outdoor assembly areas.Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Architect: Eleena Jamil Architect
Project: Desa Mahkota School