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FOSTER UNVEILS THAI CENTRE

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NEWS

Set within a tropical, sloping jungle valley in Kathu on the outskirts of Phuket - an island off the south-west coast of Thailand - this is Foster + Partners' design for a new childrens' centre.

The Louise Willgrass Centre, which will be built entirely of natural materials, is in memory of Louise Willgrass, a mother of four killed in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

Keith Watts, a friend of the Willgrass family, is a trustee of the Louise Willgrass Tsunami Foundation, which organised the funding of the scheme in conjunction with charity The Asian Centre. He explained the background to the project: 'Nigel [Louise's husband] decided to raise some funds, not a huge amount, to help the couple that helped him and his family after the tsunami hit and Louise was killed. They were poor and lived in the slums and Nigel wanted to thank them.

'But, the donations came in. We treated it like a business and upped the ante and started a trust with Nigel and me as trustees, ' said Watts.

When completed, the terraced building, which will nestle in 12 rie (4.8ha) of tamed jungle, will cater for 500 school children aged 4-16 and will have facilities to care for up to 125 orphans. There will also be accommodation for 25 gapyear students.

The school will include a library and computer rooms on the building's second-level terrace; a general purpose hall on the third terrace level; three storeys of student accommodation on the fourth terrace; and staff areas on the uppermost level.

The buildings, said Foster + Partners, are 'exible' in that brightly-coloured sliding partitions 'allow natural ventilation and provide access to external courtyards sheltered beneath canopies'.

Foster + Partners worked with Phuket-based practice East West on the scheme, and both practices donated their time free of charge to the project, and Watts said the trust has raised around £800,000 of the £1.3 million needed to build the facility.

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