Home » Blog


Event Report: May 11, 2013 Afghan Girls, Their Time is Now

We held our ‘Afghan Girls: Their Time is Now’ event at Seattle University on May 11th. The event was a great success. We would like to give special thanks to our intern Halla Ahmed for her tireless efforts in organizing this event that highlighted the  different aspects surrounding girls’ education in Afghanistan. We are extremely grateful to the many interns and staff who helped put on this event. Specifically, we want to thank our speakers: Serena Cosgrove of Seattle UniversityFarhana Ahmad of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and Catherine Gelband, president of our board of directors. We would also like to thank the many friends and family of Halla Ahmed who contributed to making this event possible. Thank you!!!

Please enjoy some photos of the night’s events.


Halla pictured on the left and one of our speakers, Farhana Ahmad.

Continue reading

Gallery Opening Reception: A Place to Learn

A Place to Learn: Sustainable School Design in Afghanistan opens in the AIA Seattle Design Gallery on Tuesday, May 14. Join us at the opening reception  where our Executive Director Ginna Brelsford will discuss the Gohar Khaton Girls’ School design. The reception is  from 5-7pm and there will be drinks and light snacks.

Event coming in May, 2013

Ayni Education International is pleased to announce that they will be hosting “Afghan Girls, Their Time is Now” at Seattle University on May 11th at 7:00pm. This event is aimed at discussing girls’ right to education in Afghanistan and will include speakers from Ayni Education International, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and Seattle University. Please join us on this exciting evening to gain insights on girls’ education in Afghanistan and the Islamic perspective on the important of girls’ education.

Dinner will be free!

Please RSVP at ahmadh@seattleu.edu

Seattle Times highlights architect Robert Hull and Ayni’s latest project!

Seattle Times highlights architect Robert Hull and Ayni’s latest project!

The Seattle Times has recently highlighted architect Robert Hull and his accomplishments and experiences abroad in Afghanistan. Robert Hull is currently leading the design for Ayni’s latest project, in cooperation with the Janet W. Ketcham Foundation, to build a girl’s school in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Click here to see the article!

UW Today displays student designs for the Janet W. Ketcham girls’ school!

UW Today displays student designs for the Janet W. Ketcham girls’ school!

The finished designs of students from the University of Washington School of Architecture have recently been showcased in UW Today, highlighting Ayni’s latest project in cooperation with the Janet W. Ketcham Foundation.

Click here to see the article!

Ayni’s newest project is showcased in “Columns,” the University of Washington alumni magazine!

Ayni’s newest project is showcased in “Columns,” the University of Washington alumni magazine!

Ayni’s newest project is showcased in the December 2012 edition of “Columns,” the University of Washington alumni magazine. The Janet W. Ketcham girls’ school is an exciting partnership between the Janet W. Ketcham Foundation, the University of Washington School of Architecture, and Ayni Education International. The Janet W. Ketcham Foundation is funding the project. The University of Washington School of Architecture just concluded a 10-week graduate level student design studio on the project. Robert Hull of Miller/Hull Architects and Professor Elizabeth Golden co-taught the course. Ayni Education International is managing the project.

Flip to pages 32-33 to find the article! December 2012 “Columns”

Updates on the University of Washington design studio from Professor Elizabeth Golden and her students!

Updates on the University of Washington design studio from Professor Elizabeth Golden and her students!

Over the past six weeks, graduate architecture students from the University of Washington have been developing design proposals for the Janet Ketcham Girls’ School located in Mazar-i-sharif, Afghanistan. The students have been asked to consider how to create an architecturally significant and beautiful school that responds to the local culture and climate in new and imaginative ways. In addition to developing meaningful and functional spaces for the girls, issues of cost, constructibility, and durability are also being considered by the students. Over the course of the academic quarter, students have participated in a series of reviews of their work by local professionals from the architecture community, as well as the board members from Ayni Education International. Designing a school for Afghan women has been very educational for the students, and we’d like to share some of the preliminary proposals the students have been developing. Each team has submitted their “project statement” and images for this blog entry.

1. Mariam Kamara and Yasaman Haji Esmaili

Located in the center of Mazar-i-Sharif, this project takes its queues from an awareness of the cultural expression of the city’s urban fabric, characterized by subtle spatial transitions. These transitions are internalized within the site by devising a journey that unfolds in the way spaces are connected and opportunities to create beauty are exploited. By using local earth-based materials, the buildings seemingly grow from the soil and produce a gradation of spaces reinforced by an interplay of light, and shadows. The project fully explores the potential of these materials to create structural continuity, control solar exposure, ventilation and provide flexible outdoor spaces for classrooms and community-based activities.

2. Ben Maestas and Sarah Eddy

Two elements of contemporary Afghan culture have been especially formative in the design of the Janet Ketcham Girls School. Notions of privacy embodied in traditional Afghan Qalas serves as a point of departure for our site plan of the school, while the addition of a poplar grove to the school grounds addresses deforestation and the lack of green spaces that characterizes Afghanistan, and Mazar-i Sharif in particular.  Four bars of classrooms, oriented to receive the southern sun, create a sequence of programmed outdoor spaces on the site, and also provide multiple views to the poplar grove. The use of poplars is also continued in the building, as a structural element in the the classrooms. In this way, a traditional material can become an important element in the school building, and the surrounding landscape.  A north/south orientation is important for controlling light and solar gain, with the use of large overhangs to block the summer sun while allowing it into the classrooms in winter. Placement of windows to light the chalkboard, and achieving comfortable daylighting for the classrooms has also been a focus of our design work. By insulating and sloping the roof, we have resolved issues of snow, and retained heat when needed. We hope to create a delightful space that the girls can be comfortably educated in while establishing a sense of permanence and ownership.

3. Marcus Crider and Carolyn Lecompte

Our design emphasizes “place-making” to celebrate the individual, the community, and the connection to the surrounding environment. It celebrates the gradient of public to private space, of activity, and of traditional earth architecture fused with modern strategies.

4. Andrew Thies and Chris Garland

5. Jaclyn Merlet and Holly Schwarz

Social interaction is very restricted for girls living in Afghanistan, with most interaction limited to their family network.  The school carries a unique opportunity to foster friendship and camaraderie for Afghan girls. The classrooms are planned around a multitude of courtyard spaces that are designed to encourage socializing amongst the girls. A well and a reflecting pool are central to the main quad, with steps enclosing the courtyard for girls to sit and talk. Popular activities like volleyball and martial arts are played in the southern activity quad, while quiet, smaller enclosures are planted with gardens and trees.  The organization of classrooms and quads permits portions of the school to remain open for after-hours use, to encourage continuing education classes for women of all ages.

6. Mackenzie Waller, Michelle Kang, and Mazohra Thami

We envision a campus where girls and young women can foster not only knowledge but friendships for life – an environment that resembles the intimate and discoverable spaces of the urban bazaar.  Classrooms are grouped in clusters of 9, with sets of 3 sharing entry space to encourage familiarity among girls of different classes. Each of these clusters differ slightly in orientation and geometry, allowing the girls to create an identity for each. Through these intimate spaces that grow from a shared, main axis, we aim to create an urban microcosm that creates areas for young girls to share secrets, build friendships and ultimately grow into young women that can bring a sense of confidence to the greater Afghan community.

7. Grace Crofoot and Kevin Lang

Our project preserves the essence of what currently exists on the site—the general site layout, local building practices and materials, and the mature trees—and elevates it to a higher level of functionality and beauty that makes the girls excited to attend school.  As in the traditional qalat, the compound wall acts as a veil between the girls and the public, allowing them complete freedom within the school.  The classrooms are spacious, functional, comfortable, and naturally day lit. The courtyard is subdivided  into unique quadrants, lending individual identity to smaller, more intimate outdoor spaces within the larger campus that include wells, gardens, study areas, informal socialization areas, and activity spaces.  Special elements, including a computer lab and library, are placed centrally within the courtyard and help further define the outdoor places.

8. Patricia Wilhelm and Bryan Brooks

Women’s education is continually evolving and progressing in Afghanistan.  The school is a microcosm for the unforeseeable but promising future.  The design provides a framework and system of spaces that can grow, change, shift, expand, and contract in conjunction with women’s education.

University of Washington Architecture class on Ayni project!

University of Washington Architecture class on Ayni project!

The University of Washington Architecture department is currently teaching a design studio course on the Janet W. Ketcham girls’ school. Here is a photo of the students working!

Professor Elizabeth M Golden, University of Washington Department of Architecture

Professor Elizabeth M Golden, University of Washington Department of Architecture

The architecture department at the University of Washington is proud to be working with Ayni Education International, the Janet Ketcham Foundation, Bob Hull from the nationally recognized architecture firm Miller I Hull, and Afghan architect Salim Rafik. Bob Hull and I are heading up a design studio with 17 graduate architecture students who are intent on designing the most comfortable and beautiful school possible for the site located in the center of Mazar-i-sharif. The students are taking their work seriously, and have been charged with identifying ways to make the most of local materials, and proposing methods for improving the performance of the new school.

The first few weeks have been spent looking at traditional Afghan architecture, studying the site, and the availability of materials. The greatest concern for the students is to insure that the building is situated correctly on the site. Because the school will most likely not be heated, it is essential that the design take advantage of the warmth of the sun. The students are using 3D computer modeling to study the sun’s path in the summer and in the winter, and these studies will inform the design and placement of the buildings on the site. Other strategies are being developed that use the mass of building materials, such as mud brick, to warm the school in winter. The use of “solar design” is intrinsic to Afghan architecture, and there are many lessons to be learned by studying these traditional methods. Using mechanical systems for heating and cooling is the norm in the US, and the students are being challenged to design using “passive” (non-mechanical) systems only.

And a lot is riding on getting it right. We became aware of the fact that Afghan schools are typically closed during the coldest (and warmest) months of the year. Because temperatures do drop to freezing in Mazar-i-sharif, it can get very uncomfortable in an unheated classroom. The same goes in summer, if it’s 95 degrees outside, and there are no shading devices on the building, or ways of moving air through a classroom, sitting in a hot school can be pretty miserable. The students in the studio decided that if they could improve the thermal comfort of the building enough to allow for the school to remain open during the months it would typically be closed, enrollment or the amount of school contact hours could be increased. We are still working on the numbers and studying the options, but we feel confident that with proper material choices and solar orientation strategies, we can offer some low-tech solutions for optimizing the school.

The students and I have never worked on a project quite like this before. We are inspired by the place, and are open to the lessons Afghanistan has to teach us. We are still at the beginning phase of developing a design for the new school, but are looking forward to taking the work to the next level in the coming weeks.

Ayni featured in the University of Washington school newspaper!

Ayni featured in the University of Washington school newspaper!

The article focuses on the Janet W. Ketcham Girls’ School. The school is being used as a case example of innovative development in a design studio at the University of Washington School of Architecture.