Gustavo Utrabo and Pedro Duschenes, founders of Brazilian practice Aleph Zero, have been named RIBA International Emerging Architect 2018 for their project, the Children Village.

Designed with Rosenbaum, the Children Village provides boarding accommodation for over 500 children at the Canuanã School in Formoso do Araguaia, Brazil. It is run and funded by the Bradesco Foundation, which offers similar accommodation spaces for farm workers and teachers in the local, remote Tocatins Region. At the same time, the school itself is one of 40 providing education for disadvantaged children.

Seeking to merge knowledge, history, nature, culture and people, the architects set out to create a project that encourages local construction techniques, indigenous beauty and the notion of belonging. “Demystify the status of the school as the only learning space and transform it into a territory with a home value,” they said.


The Children Village comprises two identical structures—one for male students and one for female students—defined by a huge timber roof. This roof canopy is supported by glue laminated timber beams and columns, which is an uncommon material for the region.

Tilting from west to east, the slight slant in the roof creates more room for additional living spaces on the first floor. Meanwhile, timber stairs to the west lead up to an open air space on the top level, intended for recreational use by residents.


Within the structures are 45 dormitory units, each home to six students and ventilated by perforated brickwork that was handmade on site. This layout allows for each unit to have its own toilets, shower rooms and laundry. The rooms are adjacent to communal areas, such as a TV room and reading space, as well as balconies and patios that overlook the courtyard gardens. Diagonal views further connect the buildings with their rural location.

“All these complementary programs were designed together with the students in order to improve the quality of life and refine the bond between students and the school,” Aleph Zero explains.

“In this way, in addition to housing a larger number of children, the new villages aim to increase children's self-esteem through the use of local techniques, creating a bridge between vernacular techniques and a new model of sustainable housing.”

Photography by Leonardo Finotti, courtesy of the RIBA.

About the Sustainability Awards

The Sustainability Awards is Australia’s longest running and most prestigious awards program dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating excellence in sustainable design and architecture. Nominations received are shortlisted and then winners for each category are announced at a five-star Gala evening hosted this year at the Star, Sydney on 11 October 2018. The daytime event Sustainability Live is a CPD-endorsed education event where industry experts present a range of topics to educate, inform and ignite learning. Buy tickets