A Future Of Vertical Schools

Exploration of the viability of vertical schools as a typology in the context of African urban growth.


The vertical school typology was developed in the global north in response to the need to rapidly densify existing cities. Benefits of this typology in North American and European urban contexts include the decreased building and carbon footprints, and the increased utilization of existing urban amenities. With the ‘Smart City’ on the rise, research from non-African contexts has shown that when employed appropriately, vertical schools can serve as catalysts for community development and provide infrastructure which may further guide growth.

With African urbanization at its peak, densification is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity. Questions around the relevance of and room for the conventional ‘sprawling school’ model have therefore been raised. The vertical school typology challenges the conventional spatial norms applied to African education facilities. Critics raise concerns about target audience and market acceptance. Others query the viability of the typology for African cities given the accessibility issues resulting from urban spatial inequalities, coupled with a lack of a mature infrastructure, as well as safety and security considerations.

The proposed research seeks to analyze recent designs for a vertical school which intends to pioneer the implementation of this typology on the continent. It seeks to dissect, validate and test the vertical school model through a two-fold methodological approach. Firstly, desktop analysis of existing implementations will be compared to the advanced designs. Secondly, a series of qualitative interviews with education experts, prospective staff, funders, parents and learners of this institution will be carried out to evaluate a virtual reality rendering of the school. The analysis of these findings should identify how the vertical school typology can better respond to the everyday realities and needs of African cities and learners.


A Future of Series Topic






Research lead: Dr. Britt Baillie

Mikara Naidoo