Community centre and school for children with physical or mental disability, Rongai – Kenya.
The Place – Don Orione Community Centre is a school for mentally and physically disabled children in Ongata Rongai; a dusty dry small town on the outskirts of Nairobi.
The Brief – The key elements asked of us was to improve the disabled access over the whole site, to consider how we could improve the stimulus for the children and to enhance the general environment by planting trees and providing shade. When we first came to site the there where no paths and so the children in wheelchairs had to be carried in order to reach the bathrooms!
The Design – The landscape design seeks to provide simple elements for the children and staff with the minimal budget available to the school and centre. Our design was driven by providing the basic requirements; circulation and trees , “movement and shade”.
Our intervention, although simple covers the full site. The design intent saw paths and ramps made with local stone which move throughout the whole site. Avenues of trees grace all pathways as a humble intervention to try and make the journey for the disabled children as calming as possible. The sense of repetition is a purposeful tool that provides a sense of texture and rhythm to the space, but most a feeling of security and reassurance that is soothing for the children.
The choice for the species for the avenue trees throughout the whole project is the indigenous Markamia lutea which was chosen for its rich green foliage and bright cheerful flowers, again with the children’s well being in mind. Other planting includes a zone of indigenous drylands forest to create a buffer from the road and various food crops such as bananas and passion fruit. The reintroduction of local tree species species has brought back the birdlife, filling the air with their song.
The trees were all planted by the parents with the children helping. The sense of self ownership of the children and their families in this project is remarkable and exciting to see.