Conceived by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, the Khumbu Climbing School was started to teach Sherpa trekkers technical climbing skills on expeditions in the Himalayas. One third of the deaths on Everest are Sherpas who are paid to pack up Westerner’s equipment. The ALCF created the school eight years ago without a building. In 2007, a partnership was made with the MSU School of Architecture and the ALCF, allowing five students and an MSU alum to make initial site visits and begin the design of the structure.
The first design studio, in fall of 2008, began with four undergrad and four graduate students selected through an application process. The graduate students made a three-week visit to Nepal to commence a design charrette with the people of Phortse. Upon their return, the undergrad students (myself included) joined them to begin the design of the building.
Many long weeks and over 20 presentations later, the studio assembled a large book, a website and four design proposals to present to the city of Phortse. This would not have been possible without several meetings with MSU structural engineering graduate students, multiple discussions with Jenni and Conrad Anker and meetings with other design associates. The project was an experiment in collaboration to say the least, all to produce the most efficient, affective building for people of Phortse. All of the projects focused on using sustainable, portable materials (as they would be trekked up for four days on yaks and backs), day-lighting, natural heating strategies, local construction practices, and innovative spaces for teaching climbing skills. The challenging aspects of the project made it extremely rewarding.
The school is currently still under construction, but our initial designs influenced the final project result. The photos are used with permission, courtesy Dean Soderberg. Team members: Professor Mike Everts, Dillon McQuinn, Nick Molinaro, Sarah Mohland, Justina Holman, Chris Hancock, Dean Soderberg and Jaron Mickolio.
For more information on the ALCF and the Khumbu Climbing School: