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Project in Detail

Desa Mahkota School

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Eleena Jamil Architect, Ampang, Malaysia

Each teaching block faces a green courtyard 
Eleena Jamil 

Desa Mahkota is a national secondary school designed to accommodate up to 1200 students between the ages of 12 and 17 and up to 60 teaching staff. It is located on an elevated 1.8 hectare urban site in Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur. The school has a built-up area of 13,000 m² with a multi-purpose hall, classrooms, science and IT laboratories, library, canteen and administration rooms.

The school is planned in linear strips arranged in shifting parallels. The tight site means that part of the school needs to be a high-rise structure in order to meet the space requirements. The teaching blocks are arranged in ascending heights with the lowest along the front and the tallest towards the rear of the site. This strategy ensures that the building retains its human scale upon approach.

Historically, architecture of schools in Malaysia stems from masonry linear structures first introduced by the colonial British government and later developed by the Public Works Department (JKR) into standard forms arranged around courtyards. The JKR model, built extensively across the country in the 60s and 70s, was rather rigid in design but suited the humid tropical climate. The single banked classrooms have openings on the windward and leeward side, allowing cross ventilation to occur.

Desa Mahkota School seeks to improve the standard typology. Like its predecessor, the new school’s classrooms, labs and offices are stringed along open corridors one side and are fully glazed on the other. This means that rooms are naturally well ventilated and brightly lit. In the tropics, east and western facade are generally more problematic to shade due to the direct exposure to the morning and afternoon sun. This school avoids the problem by having all windows and door openings face north and south. Ceiling fans are used to increase the movement of air in a room. Fins and overhangs on all north facades and open corridors on the south facades help shade rooms from direct sunlight and reduce problems associated with glare.

Ceilings and floors are deliberately left bare, exposing their structural concrete surfaces, so that their thermal mass can help regulate daytime temperatures. For example, heat is absorbed by the concrete slabs during the day and released during the night when the classrooms are not in use. Rooms are naturally ventilated during the night to remove the released heat from the space. Industrialised building systems are used in the fabrication of structures. Concrete floors, columns and beams are prefabricated off site and brought to the site for assembly. This approach saves time and costs and allows workmanship standards to be kept high during construction.

In the Desa Mahkota School, linear building volumes of different heights and lengths are arranged in a serrated manner, which inevitably create courtyards of varying character. Each courtyard is further distinguished by the different colours assigned to the building facades. The courtyards play a major role in keeping spaces cool during the day, especially when the natural landscape has fully matured. They provide a cool respite and soften the angular geometry of the building blocks, making them feel less institutional.

In terms of space planning, the school seeks to create an open communication where the experience of moving through the school is a particularly rich experience. A continuous series of ‘common’ or ‘public’ spaces made up of corridors, multi-purpose hall, informal play area and canteen become places for school children to play and socialise. These linked spaces are considered an ‘architectural promenade’ where a lot of informal teaching and interaction between students will take place. This promenade acts as a communication, supervision and social artery closely linked to the academic rooms and green spaces of the courtyards.

Desa Mahkota School is equipped with rainwater harvesting system where precipitation on the ground and roof is stored and re-used. Hard surfaces are kept to a minimum with expansive use of permeable pavements and grass pavers for the roads and outdoor assembly areas.

Lead Architect »

Eleena Jamil Architect

Professional Credits »

Ms Eleena Jamil
Eleena Jamil Architect

Client / Developer
Ministry of Education, Malaysia

Cost Consultant
AT Associates

Environmental Engineer
ZNVA & Associates

Main Contractor
Pembinaan Tajri Sdn Bhd

Structural Engineer
MSJ Consulting Engineering