UCL Grand Challenges


Learning Room Design Project

The Learning Room Design Project was a collaboration between researchers in Architecture and the Development Planning Unit at UCL and PART (the Palestine Regeneration Team).

Learning Room Design Project

1 August 2011


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2011-12
Amount awarded: £5,000


  • Murray Fraser, Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Camillo Boano, Development Planning Unit
  • Nasser Golzari, Palestine Regeneration Team (PART)
  • Yara Sharif, Palestine Regeneration Team (PART)


The project is to design an entirely new building type called the ‘Learning Room’, which is being conceived in this first instance as helping with reconstruction in the Gaza Strip. It is conceived as a prototype for a series of annexes to existing schools that can be applied in many countries if the prototype proves successful.

There are two key aims for the Learning Room:

  • to provide a community centre where residents can meet together to discuss urban regeneration plans
  • to act as a knowledge base for innovative forms of sustainable construction that can help with rebuilding in conditions of chronic lack of building materials, energy, water etc.

We are also currently writing a self-build manual to help Gazans create low-energy dwellings when rehousing, and the Learning Room will thus act as the location where this knowledge can be disseminated. Families rebuilding their houses will be able to study different forms of construction and low-cost passive energy-saving devices. It will act as a ‘community laboratory’ in some of the poorest and toughest places on earth.

A test site has been identified for a prototype Learning Room in a school in the Zaytouna neighbourhood of Gaza City, with that project being funded by UN-Habitat with support from the Palestinian Housing Council, Gaza University, Islamic Relief and other bodies.

Outputs and Impacts

  • A finalised design prototype has been agreed, and is now being developed in greater detail by the project team. Final approval for the proposed ‘Learning Room’ from the local community in the Zaytouna area of Gaza City, where the first iteration is planned to be built, is subject to financial / political realities. This process of consultation also involves Gaza University, Islamic Relief, UN Habitat and other local groups
  • The ‘Learning Room’ project offers a useful means to disseminate low-energy passive building techniques that Gazan citizens could use when they erect new houses within a situation of severe economic scarcity