By Adela Suliman
LONDON, Nov 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A remote jungle school in Brazil was named on Wednesday as the world's best new building, its towering timber canopy serving as classroom and dorm to poor and indigenous children.
The 'Children Village' complex, deep in the Tocantins region, will house 540 children in new dormitories, in an area where many children must trudge to and from school, across dense rainforest, on foot or by boat.
Now they can stay over - with grades already improving.
"The building is improving the quality of life of the kids," award winner Gustavo Utrabo, an architect at Aleph Zero, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Brazil.
The green building, praised by judges for its "humble heroism", was designed by Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum and won the 2018 RIBA International Prize by the Royal Institute of British Architects, a global professional membership body.
The complex took 14 months to build, fusing local culture and hyper-modernity, and used traditional building components such as handmade earth blocks to replace the old barracks.
"We tried to make a new feeling and a contemporary interpretation of the traditional ways of building in this area of Brazil," Utrabo said.
Experts visited 30 long-listed buildings - from a vertical garden in Milan to a virtuoso music school in Tokyo - to discover the world's best new building.
The award-winning team worked closely with the children at the Canuana School to come up with ways to change their lives through architecture and provide spacious, new areas for them to sleep, study and relax.
The sleek woodland complex blends into the surrounding forest, providing natural shade from the tropical heat in an area where temperatures can hit 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
The columned canopy spans about 25,000 sq m - almost the area of five football fields.
The architects now plan a second Children Village project in the large wetland Pantanal region of Brazil, along with an indigenous community centre in Xingu, in the north of Brazil.
"We're feeling the joy of the present," said Utrabo.
(Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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