Built in rememberance of Italian journalist Maria Grazia Cutuli, murdered in Afghanistan in 2001, this school represents an alternative approach to emergency school design for war-torn areas. The Aga Khan award-contest citation claims it is intended to resemble an unplanned juxtaposing of elements, like a small village, enclosed by a boundary wall.
This school building accommodates eight classrooms, various staff accommodation, a double-height library and a garden which acts as a ‘green classroom’. Built of reinforced concrete with brick cladding, the structures are painted rather than rendered, to save costs. The walls’ range of blue tones reflects the 'lapis lazuli' pigment used on local pottery, while window frames are in contrasting red.
Unless one knows differently, from the outside the school looks like an isolated police station painted dark blue with a flag on top of its gate.
The choice of Herat for this project might be based on the fact that the foundation could raise funds and support for a project more easily in a province where the Italian army makes up a large part of the local Provincial Reconstruction Team. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the school was inaugurated by the Italian defence minister, the project architects being transported to the site in army helicopters – as illustrated in photographs published in a number of articles.