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The Abu Hindi Primary School is a rehabilitation project of a primary school in the Bedouin camp of Wadi Abu Hindi in Occupied Palestinian Territory, less than 10km east of Jerusalem. The geographic and socio-politic context is similar of the one of Al Khan Al Ahmar primary school, with the Israeli authorities prohibiting permanent settlements. The challenge of this project is to deal with the scarce resource in a zone of political tension in addition to addressing local climate and land policy constraints.
Building in this sensitive context, it is inevitable to work with velocity and simple construction methods, with a minimum cost and unskilled manpower. The rehabilitation had to face restrictions imposed by the Israeli military authority, which makes it impossible to change the volume of the existing school building.
The Abu Hindi Primary School is an international cooperation project led by Vento di Terra NGO, an organization working in Palestine for children's fundamental rights to education and health care. Here Bedouins live in very critical environmental conditions, due to the air and ground pollution and to the serious water scarcity of the area.
The Bedouin community of Wadi Abu Hindi is a part of Al Jahalin Tribe, one of the biggest refugee tribe in the West Bank today, with more than 2700 people dispatched yet in 31 different areas. Natives from the Tel Arad district of Al-Negev desert, they had to leave from their environment and take refuge in the West Bank after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. This context makes life very difficult, particularly for the weakest inhabitants of these villages in the desert: children. The parents can't no more convey their traditional Bedouin nomadic culture, and further there is no place to give their children proper education.
The Valley of Abu Hindi is situated in the desert between Jerusalem and Jericho, in a place now classified in the Area C territories1, which are parts of the West Bank under an administrative and military control by the Israeli Authorities. There, the Bedouins are subjected to many prohibitions in particular to build permanent settlements. In Wadi Abu Hindi there's no connection with the electricity or communication nets, they use a hire gas oil generators, which is insufficient for the local needs and cannot work in a continuous way. Water supply is realized with a service rubber pipe of 2 cm diameter, often damaged with infiltrations. Moreover, the camp is downstream of the biggest dumping ground in the area, which is used both by Jerusalem city and Israeli nearby colonies.
Having ruled out concrete or ceramic bricks for any structural part, ARCò looked for an easily available material, like those with biospheric origin, like soil, straw and bamboo, better if taken from the large number of junkyards, standing by the sides of the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho. Bedouins have a renowned recycling culture. All their houses and structures are realized in metal sheets and wooden trusses gathered in the building yards where they work or simply in the dumps. Unfortunately, these kind of materials are not appropriate during the hot summers and cold winters, since their insulating power is near zero.
Technical and architectural decisions, taken by ARCò team, had the purpose of retrofitting the existing building and transforming it in a new one, which is climatically comfortable and energetically sustainable. That’s why we worked on two main themes, which are acoustic and thermal insulation and natural ventilation.
The walls were built using Pisé wall and adobe bricks which are methods using compacted mix of straw, sand and clay and the different plastering was also made out of earth. The choice of the material came from a deep analysis of the specific location of the project, with its geographical and socio-political conditions.
As said before, the school is located in a Bedouin camp in the desert, what nowadays is the area C of the West Bank, which means that no permanent building is allowed to be built there, so no conventional construction company is allowed to supply materials or to work in that place. Then the only manpower available was the Bedouins from the camp themselves, and the only material available from their nearest environment was earth, very much used in the past by the local population of the same area.
The techniques of Pisé and Adobe bricks are fast and simple to set up, easy to learn by the workers, using materials available on the site and allowing the construction to start under a very low budget allowing also a new climatic comfort. Indeed, raw earth is known for his high quality of thermal inertia, which allows to keep the freshness during the hot days and the heat during the wintry season. Thus, the school won around 10°C of difference perceived from the outside to the inside.