Ark Soaring in the Sky


Kikuma Watanabe is an associate professor at Kochi University of Technology in Japan and is responsible for the overall design of this project. The owner is Kagayaku Inochi (glorious life), a Japanese NPO. This school for orphans is in Sangkhlaburi village, Thailand, located near the borderline between Thailand and Myanmar. In this area there are a lot of poor people who immigrated from Myanmar.  This school aims to provide sustainable poverty alleviation in the area.

To provide a good future for the children, they hoped that the school would be designed to realize their dreams. So, at first the teacher asked the children to draw the dream of the school building. One of them drew a flying ship as his dream. They adapted his idea, and tried to translate the drawing into architecture.


They designed the school with two architectural components: one is the earthbag building and the other is a light steel building with bamboo and grass roof. The earthbag building is set on ground floor and the steel building is for the upper floor. Three earthbag domes stand on the ground , and support the upper steel buildings. The steel building has a big triangular roof with grass. The earthbag domes are thought of as a “launching pad” that supplies the ship with the “energy of Mother Earth.” The upper steel building is thought of as the ship that is soaring in the sky.


In the steel building with grass roof a good breeze blows through, so they can be comfortable. This part functions as a Buddhist room and classroom. The upper floor connects to the lower earthbag domes through two openings. Construction was done by D Environmental Design System Laboratory, local carpenters who were Garian, minor mountain people, and children in this school.

For more photos and description of this wonderful project, visit

8 thoughts on “Ark Soaring in the Sky”

  1. That slide is a great idea.

    It’s not just a children’s way to play… which it is. It’s also a secondary emergency exit from the upper floor, in case of fire or other emergency.

    That’s a lot of steel in that structure. However, this is a public building. A school full of children. Over-engineering the roof structure makes a lot of sense.

    It appears the the steel has been lashed together like bamboo poles are often lashed. Is that a common practice in Thailand? What are the lashings made from, and what is their life expectancy?

    • No, that’s not common. I imagine the rope lashings are purely for aesthetics — to mimic lashed bamboo and soften the appearance. The connections are probably welded or bolted. The rope is protected from moisture and should last quite a while. It looks like sisal rope.

      Bamboo could have been used, of course, but it’s probably too difficult finding skilled bamboo workers and getting treated bamboo in this frontier zone.

  2. This is a very good build and a great place for these children. I encourage others to click on the link and see the build. It’s inspiring. It gives hope for the youngest.

    • I’m sure the school is much appreciated. This is in a borderland conflict/refugee type area where people are very poor. The Myanmar government is one of the worst in the world and many people flee to Thailand. Myanmar (Burma) still uses slave gangs of kidnapped villagers to build roads, etc.

      There’s also an earthbag clinic in this area. Search our blog for the story.


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