Located in Ngabobo Village between Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro, the two-storey school exists to support members of the Maasai tribes who are slowly shifting their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyles to more permanent settlements.
Simba Vision Montessori School has been shortlisted in the Education project category of the Dezeen Awards 2023.
Architectural Pioneering Consultants and Wolfgang Rossbauer were commissioned for the project by the non-profit organisation Africa Amini Alama, which provides health, education and social support in Tanzania.
The studio's design draws on Montessori patterns, which are 28 spatial ideas derived from the principles of Montessori – a method of education that encourages hands-on learning rather than formal teaching.
These include making use of local materials with tactile qualities and ensuring a building is formed of interconnected spaces that are tailored to children's activities.
"The Maasai community draws on ancient cultural roots but also embraces innovation and modernity," said the studio's managing director Gunter Klix.
"People are used to spending time outside and observing nature," he told Dezeen. "We learnt a lot from this lifestyle, even though the project itself is distinctly modern and stands apart from the traditional building typology."
Simba Vision Montessori School is designed with an east-west orientation. Its walls are built at 45-degree angles for cross ventilation, creating classrooms with a consistent interior temperature.
Architectural Pioneering Consultants had three principles for the construction of the school. All materials were used as sparingly as possible, they were obtained close to the site and all assembly and construction happened directly on the plot.
The blockwork walls are formed of volcanic rock and sand that is naturally available on the site, while zinc was used for the roof, which acts as both a sunshade and a rainwater harvester.
"The materials and methods of construction were of high importance since construction materials and skilled craftsmen were not easily available," explained Klix.
"All our material choices were maxed out for performance. We endeavoured to use simple solutions and enhance their value as components to the architecture," he continued.
Simba Vision Montessori School has two stepped points of entry. These act as transitional spaces between the outside and the classrooms deeper in the plan, meaning there is no need for corridors.
In the classrooms, students use the floor as the primary workspace. The interiors of these rooms are partly clad with straw and mud to improve their comfort and acoustics, a vernacular technique learned from Maasai women.
Distinctive diamond-shaped windows on the facade open into smaller learning niches which also act as "heat chambers", capturing heat from the sun to warm the classrooms behind them.
Architectural Pioneering Consultants was founded in 2008 by Dark Gummich and has studios in both Tanzania and Switzerland.
Elsewhere in Tanzania, Polish practice Jeju Studio has created a school for refugees with a tree-filled courtyard at its centre and Swedish studios Asante Architecture & Design and Lönnqvist & Vanamo Architects collaborated with local workers to create a self-sufficient orphanage in Kingori.
The photography is by Nadia Christ.