Design and Build school

Film documenting Nottingham students’ journey to design and build creche in South Africa premieres in London

Wednesday, 28 June 2023

A short film, which documents the design, construction, and opening of a South African pre-school completely created by University of Nottingham students, has been viewed for the first time. 

The project was run by the design/build studio, based in the university’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment, and has allowed more than 450 students the opportunity to participate in international social impact projects since the first creche was built in 2009.

Working in small groups, the students were initially tasked with producing a set of designs, of which three are selected to then be refined, before one design is chosen to be built. The students then spent six weeks in South Africa, with this year’s pre-school being built in Ga-Molepo, building the creche from the ground up using funds raised by themselves and contributions from industry partners.

Abigail Julien, a second year Architecture student that was part of this year’s project, said: “The ability to be able to see something that you’ve designed come to fruition so early in your career is incredibly rare, so this has been a once in a lifetime experience that I’m incredibly grateful for.

“Being part of the decision-making process for how the building took shape has been my favourite part of the project, and the fact that we’ve created a creche that will be able to help the community of Ga-Molepo for generations to come is something that will stay with me forever.”

Image credit: University of Nottingham

A documentary that follows the build process and speaks to key members of the local community, as well as staff and students from the University of Nottingham, was shown at the London Festival of Architecture as part of a panel event hosted by Grimshaw, which was attended by people from across the industry.

Peter Russell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Nottingham, said: “At the heart of this project is for our students to engage with responsible architecture and social impact, and understand the nuances of charity work. This project ticks all those boxes while simultaneously providing them with an experience that they’ll never forget.

“We’re being trusted to do something beneficial that could not only improve childhood development, but also empower women, allow parents to get back into the world of work and provide the communities with government subsidies once the creches are registered. As with every cohort, I’m incredibly proud of the work our students have done and hope they are also proud of themselves. To have this documentary to remember their time working on the project will, I’m sure, be a nice memory in the future.”

The project is run in conjunction with Education Africa, who the university first linked up with in 2008. James Urdang, CEO and Founder, said: “Despite being ranked as an upper middle-income country, South Africa’s education system ranks as one of the worst in the world. And a lot of the pre-schools in rural areas are unable to finance the building of a creche and, therefore, run them out of basic structures like garages.

“So far, the University of Nottingham’s Design/Build Project has helped to build ten creches across the country, providing thousands of youngsters with improved spaces to start their education and we look forward to continuing this prosperous partnership for many years to come.”

To find out more about the design/build studio, please click here.

Story credits

More information is available from Pete Russell, Faculty of Engineering, at or; Faith Pring, Media Relations Manager at the University of Nottingham, at or 0115 748 4411. 

Danielle Hall - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Engineering
Phone: 0115 846 7156

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

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We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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