John McAslan + Partners appointed to design the new dental teaching facility and student hub at University of Malawi College of Medicine

It is nearly three months since I published a post on our MalDent blog. The COVID-19 situation has inevitably impacted on progress with some aspects of the project, including the shipping of equipment from Dentaid HQ to Lilongwe for Phase 2 of the KCH Dental Department refurbishment.

All students at the College of Medicine, including the BDS students, have been off campus since late March and plans are in place to commence delivery of some teaching on-line. However, this is challenging because many students do not have access to WiFi in their homes or, in many cases, availability of suitable computers, tablets or phones. There has been regular contact between the CoM and University of Glasgow in order to find ways in which we can provide support and this partnership work is continuing.

Nevertheless, there has been significant activity in other areas. During April, we completed all of the documentation for the End of Year 2 reporting to Scottish Government. This was a large piece of work, which included the generation of a COVID-19 risk assessment. The latter was a valuable exercise and we are very fortunate that there are two major strands of work which can continue over the next few months, despite the lockdown and travel restrictions:

1. Drafting of the National Oral Health Policy

Following the very successful workshop in Lilongwe on 13th and 14th February 2020, the Terms of Reference and task force have both been agreed and we can work on development of the policy document through digital communication and video conferencing.

2. RIBA phases 1 and 2 of the design of the dental teaching facility and student hub on the Blantyre campus of CoM

Following the very successful design workshop held in Blantyre in September 2019, a schedule of accommodation was created, together with a cost estimate. This in turn informed documentation that was created with support from the University of Glasgow Procurement Office to allow us to tender for a design team via the Public Contracts Scotland portal. Bids were received and assessed formally according to standard procedures,  including interviews that were held on-line. Grateful thanks are due to Gillian Ray from the University of Glasgow Procurement Office for her expert and cheerful support throughout the process.

I am delighted to announce that the contract has been awarded to John McAslan & Partners, working in a consortium with Studio KAP, Buro Happold, David Narro Associates and Quant Consult Associates.

This is a massive step forward for the MalDent Project and very exciting. John McAslan + Partners is an award-winning international architectural practice, with headquarters in London but further studios in Edinburgh and Sydney. It has an extensive portfolio of projects in the UK and overseas including education, cultural, hospitality, commercial infrastructure, residential, urban design, heritage and landscape sectors.

John McAslan + Partners has a long-term commitment to volunteering in Africa and in Malawi in particular. This has included work with the Clinton Global Initiative, Malawi Ministry of Education and The Hunter Foundation on the Malawi Schools Programme. The requirements for those school buildings were very similar to those for the new building on the Blantyre campus:

  •  An inclusive design, which would welcome parent engagement
  • Extended schools that would enable the community to use the buildings beyond school hours for other activities eg adult learning
  • Embedding of the school buildings within the community
  • Teaching spaces that would allow students to learn in different forms – group work, individual work, activity-based work – otherwise known as transformational learning environments.

The design incorporated features that improved the quality of light in the buildings and their environmental performance, at a very competitive cost.

Malawi School 2
A completed classroom building in Malawi, designed by John McAslan + Partners

An outstanding example of the work of John McAslan + Partners which will be known to many who travel from London to the North-East of England and Scotland by train is the beautiful transformation of Kings Cross station that was unveiled in 2012.

Western concourse at London Kings Cross station. Central postion
Kings Cross Station, London – another John McAslan + Partners project

The design work for the MalDent Project will be delivered by the Edinburgh Studio, which consists of four RIAS Chartered Architects and three technologists, headed up by the studio lead, Paul East.

There are four other partners in the consortium:

This Glasgow based architectural practice is known for innovative, award-winning human scale designs which are built with a high degree of craftsmanship. Their work has been published internationally and is characterised by a strong empathy for physical and cultural settings and a design process which involves clients in a collaborative role in shaping each project. They have long-standing research and practice relationships in low income countries in the Global South, particularly in their ongoing collaboration with Abba architects in Ethiopia.

  • Quant Consult Associates

This Project Management and Chartered Quantity Surveying Firm, was registered in 2000 by Joseph Malingamoyo and the late Morrison Alfred Sulumba. Since 2011, Yvonne Sulumba-Phiri is Partner Designate. The strength of the firm lies in the collective experience of the partners and members of staff who have held various positions, responsibilities and portfolios in Central Government, Local Government and Private Sector both in Malawi and abroad. Since its inception in 2000, the firm has undertaken a number of challenging commissions, including a notable positive contribution in the tertiary education sector and in particular for the University of Malawi College of Medicine campus.

This practice of Consulting Structural Civil Engineers, with offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Forres and Stirling, was established in 1986.  The practice has considerable experience in the design of education and research buildings for private, public and university sectors and has a long association with a number of clients in this field. This project will be delivered from their Glasgow Office, where they have 12 Chartered Engineers.

This international, integrated consultancy of engineers, consultants and advisers operates in 24 locations worldwide, with over 1,900 employees. Sustainability is intrinsic to the economic and social impact of their work. They always strive to deliver solutions with a sense of economy for our planet and its resources. This project will be delivered from their Edinburgh office, where they have 23 MEP Engineers.

This carefully chosen consortium, with tremendous experience of working in the Global South, can now start on the next exciting stage of the journey to deliver not only the infrastructure required for the clinical teaching of dental students on the Blantyre campus, but also a student hub that will offer great benefits for all staff and students on the campus as well as the local community. As part of their bid for the project, the consortium provided an early impression of how the facility may look:

Malawi Dental School Perspective
Preliminary vision of the new student hub / dental teaching facility 

Suddenly this important strand of the MalDent Project is coming alive – exciting times ahead!

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Paul East, Associate at John McAslan + Partners, for the final image in this post.



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