A holistic art project by Leistungskurs Kunst students, students from the Mongolian Tolit School in Ulaanbaatar and professional architects (Architektenkammer Berlin)

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Based on my visit of Mongolia in Fall 2019 and my pedagogical inspections of art departments at schools of Ulaanbaatar, the idea to an interactive, cross-cultural and holistic architectural project evolved. One of the schools I visited, Tolit School, had bought a piece of land outside the capital city to expand by constructing an additional school building for secondary students with boarding opportunities.


I found this an ideal assignment for our art students in the second semester of Abitur (dealing with architecture and design) to develop architectural ideas for the new building outside of Ulaanbaatar. However, it was important to include architects in the project since the planning of a highly functional building like a school in a foreign and mostly unknown country demanded professional support. Therefore, I signed up for professional training sessions at Berliner Architektenkammer and connected to two architects, Fran Gonzalez and Max Kaminsky, who were interested in joining the project and supporting our students in developing their architectural ideas. I applied with a thorough project description to the project fond at Architektenkammer for financial support which fortunately was granted. The Mongolian Embassy, represented by Oyuntuya Oyunjargal, enabled the connection to the Tolit School and answered our many questions towards the geography, culture and history of the Mongolia.

The assignment to the students were to develop an architectural concept for the extension of the Tolit School outside of the city center that would be a combination of a learning and living space to students of Y10 to Y12. Around 300 students were to learn at the premises (with 100 of them being boarding students), staff accommodation also needed to be included. Apart from the functionality as a school building, the architectural concept was supposed to consider aspects of sustainability, geographical facts and cultural identity. Since the location of the property was known, we found the piece of land on Google Earth and – together with the facts provided by the Tolit School management – could start to plan precisely. Although it was planned to link with upper secondary students from Tolit School while planning their new school building and to ask them for support or even encourage them to parallelly plan along, the school lockdown from mid-March until May made this impossible. Schools in Mongolia had been shut at the end of January 2020 already and were not opened before summer break! Our students managed to continue their planning in teams of two and regularly met online with the architects. Over weeks of ambitious work, simulating the profession of an architect, the students came from a brainstorming as a fundament of their concept over several sketches, LEGO models, 3D models with plaster, clay and salt-dough towards precise constructive drawings of floor plans, views and sections towards their final result which they presented as online portfolios. See a sample portfolio here.

Since the project could not really be carried out as a joint project with the Tolit School, we will now – in a second round – try to bring it to a higher level of cooperation. Obviously, it was not intended to have German students alone plan a school in Mongolia but it was meant for students of both countries to exchange their ideas on school constructions and to compare their architectural ideas. The Mongolian students are back in school and are now making short films about their school and about the location of the construction site. These films will be – together with the initial architectural ideas – the basis for a fresh start of the cooperation in Winter 2021/22 when we can hopefully work without boundaries as one world once again. Then, we will aim for the originally planned cultural exchange in conceptualizing the construction of school buildings which will hopefully result in a visit of Tolit students in Berlin and a trip of our students to Mongolia. In the meantime, students, teachers and architects are communication with each other and exchanging their ideas via google classroom.

Please find the project report here.

Florentine Baumann

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03.03.2021 Nelson-Mandela-Schule · Staatliche Internationale Schule Berlin | Nelson Mandela School · State International School Berlin