On the small Indonesian island Nias, in the Indian Ocean, 125 km off the western coast of Sumatra, the orphanage “Kinderdorf St. Antonius” is situated on a densely vegetated hill with a sweeping view of the island and the sea. Since 1990 the orphanage, caring for 50 babies and kids, is managed by eight nuns of the Franciscan order, who also operate a public kindergarten in the village. In 2004 and 2005 Tsunamis and earthquakes have left many children orphaned, who had to be taken in by the children’s village. The NGO Caritas Austria, which was already busy with housing reconstruction on Nias immediately after the Tsunami, invited students of Vienna University of Technology to design and build a urgently needed, new multi-purpose building for the orphanage, while additional accommodation for the orphans was built by local workers.
In the course of a design-program the students designed and built a structure to serve primarily as an assembly hall, playroom and event space for eighty orphans. The building site was situated on a terrain edge in the middle of the children’s village, with the existing buildings spread across a slope with lush vegetation. The structural building material available was primarily locally grown timber. At the request of the nuns, the roofing was to be done in corrugated metal sheets. The spatial program was also determined by the nuns.
Within two months in spring 2007 the students created a central grandstand with seating steps and landings, which follows the drop of the terrain and links the lobby and library wing, situated uphill, to the assembly hall, situated downhill. The music room and a small craft room are connected with the assembly hall through big sliding and folding doors to create a generous space for various activities.