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Design for Good: Foundation Seeks New Ideas for Furniture in African Classrooms

Open call asks designers to create a new seating solution for the Chipakata Children's Academy in Zambia

A wave of non-profit foundations and architects have designed stunning, adaptable, and in many cases, sustainable educational facilities across Africa. And while architecture that adapts vernacular practices and include flexible classrooms improves the educational experience, there’s one facet of the learning environment that doesn't always benefits from purpose-built design: the furniture.

A new design brief by the design-savvy New York-based 14+ Foundation seeks to incorporate custom furniture design into its new primary school in Zambia, and offers a wide berth for a designer to envision a new type of classroom environment. This design commission for the Chipakata Children's Academy seeks help redesigning this essential part of the organization’s new school, creating a flexible design solution for rural classrooms.

Drawing its name from the unfortunate reality that the local literacy rate of those over the age of 14 is staggeringly low, the 14+ Foundation was founded in 2012 by Joseph Mizzi and Nchimunya Wulf with the goal of improving rural education in Africa. The group has attracted a number of artist, architect, and celebrity supporters, including Rashid Johnson, Solange Knowles, Rosario Dawson, Julian Schnabel, and Annabelle Selldorf, and opened its first school, the Chipakata Children's Academy, in January of 2015 in a remote site in rural Zambia, which serves students in grades 1-7. A new location, the Mwabwindo School, also in Zambia, was designed by Selldorf Architects and will break ground this year, with a projected 2018 opening date.

The 14+ Foundation is now putting out a call seeking flexible furniture designs for the school, pieces that can adapt to the different needs of the school and its students. The brief seeks a flexible design solution that can support a variety of activities throughout the day: seating for impromptu gatherings, dining tables, building blocks for the playground, and even rest areas for the on-site farm.

The commission is looking for design that meets the needs of the school and responds to the community, culture, landscape, and climate. Submissions are due by August 15th, and will be judged by an accomplished jury, including: Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, Design Consultant and Curatorial Advisor, Design Miami; Mateo Kries, Director, Vitra Design Museum; Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, Co-Founders of Opening Ceremony; Sarah Medford, Contributing Editor, WSJ. Magazine and Strategic Advisor, Collective Design; Eddie Opara, Partner, Pentagram; Karen Stein, Writer & Architectural Advisor and Executive Director of the George Nelson Foundation.