This primary school and kindergarten in Zaragoza was conceived by Spanish studio Magén Arquitectos as a village of classrooms with stripy cladding and pyramid-shaped rooftops (+ slideshow).
Magén Arquitectos completed the single-storey kindergarten building in 2010 and has since added a three-storey school and an accompanying canteen and sports hall.
The three buildings wrap around a large shared playground and are united by a low-level canopy that runs along the facade of each block.
"From a distant vision, the grouping of classroom 'houses' around the courtyard garden refers to the idea of a village or town, as a set of independent living units that colonise a place," said the architects.
A modular concrete construction guided the layout of the building, creating rows of classrooms with angled ceilings.
"These prefabricated elements, topped with a skylight, function as lighting and sound absorption domes, providing a more uniform distribution of light across the surface of the classroom and significantly reducing noise inside," said the architects.
Each classroom faces towards the playground, but windows can be screened using colourful louvres in shades of red, orange and purple.
Precast concrete staircases rise up through the three-storey building, plus the facades are selectively clad with timber panels.
Magén Arquitectos is led by architects Jaime and Francisco Magén. Other projects by the studio include aluminium-clad social housing and a timber and concrete building for Zaragoza City Council. See more architecture by Magén Arquitectos.
Photography is by Jesus Granada.
Here's more information from Magén Arquitectos:
School Complex in Zaragozaf
The new school complex, which holds different educational levels from three to twelve years, is located in a residential area on the outskirts, southwest of Zaragoza. The absence of urban references, given the isolated location of the plot, makes to conceive the project from the inside out, based in their own internal requirements. From the educational point of view, the focus is on the pedagogical value of teaching spaces and the school is seen as a significant experience in spatial terms, related to the child's creative world. In this sense, the project meets the sensorial relationship between children and architecture, using geometry, space, light, materiality and colour.
From the logic of the project, the proposed architecture develops the concept of unity and multiplicity, associated with the fragmentation of the program in classrooms and diverse sets of unique elements, "additive houses", which are related by porches and patios, streets and squares, interiors and exterior. This approach also addresses the relationship between the domestic scale accompanying the child and the community dimension of public facilities in a new residential neighborhood. The study of the circulations, natural lighting and acoustics were other key factors in the development of the project.
The project fits in with the urbanistic rules of the plot and the necessary differentiation between different educational cycles without losing its unitary condition. The centre has a total of 18 elementary classrooms, 9 children, six supportings classrooms, a multipurpose room, a library, a music room, a computer room, an arts classroom, gym, kitchen, staff rooms and administrative areas. The extensive program is divided into three smaller-scale buildings, as a result also of the need to build in phases. The layout of the main volumes (kindergarten, primary school, dining hall and gym) responds to the preferred orientation to the south of the teaching spaces, a different set of common outdoor areas to access, play and relationship, and prevent volumes cast shadows on these spaces.
A continuous porch links the three buildings, connecting their different accesses, which allow the differentiation of cycles and allow the use of some areas independently. An access for students to the kindergarten, one for elementary students, one for parents and teachers and a restricted one to the office, in the dining hall. The project is adjusted to the topography by two horizontal platforms with a height of 1.70 m. between them, coinciding with the different levels of access from the street. Given the relationship between interior and exterior spaces, all the spaces takes place mainly on the ground floor, except the elementary classrooms, a longitudinal prism whose three stacked floors remain the clearly horizontal configuration of the set.
At the level between three and six years, the school contributes to the playful atmosphere that the child needs at this crucial stage for learning and skills development. The planning of the kindergarten, on the south side of the plot, is based in some ideas about setting up an environment specifically designed for the child, as the first level of socialisation, advanced by Maria Montessori in the early twentieth century, in their first "Case dei Bambini" (Children's House). This idea of the classroom as a home that protects and shelters, refers to the anthropological origins of the room -the cabin- and is manifested in truncated-pyramidal pitched roofs over square classrooms. Each group of children inhabit a classroom-or "house" -. All are equal in elementary geometry, while different, by their position, orientation, location of the skylight, colour and relationship to the rest.
The classrooms are oriented to the south to ensure natural lighting and are grouped around the common outdoor space for games and outdoor activities. A cantilever, which runs around the perimeter of this space, protects from the sun and rain. From a distant vision, the grouping of classrooms, "houses" around the courtyard garden refers to the idea of village or town, as a set of independent living units that colonise a place.
From the inside, these prefabricated elements, topped with a skylight, function as lighting and sound absorption domes, providing a more uniform distribution of light across the surface of the classroom and significantly reducing noise inside. The increased height also improves thermal conditions in summer, while the underfloor heating system ensures comfort in winter. The child classroom setting, a key element in a building of this type, provides a direct correlation between this essential use and an identifiable form, such as spatial unit, structural and constructive. The building is based on a space module of 7.20 x 7.20 x 3.60 m., which matches the dimensions of the room and define its structure, functional organisation and its formal configuration. The other school spaces are configured through the subdivision and/or addition of these modules, creating airy and flexible interiors that would allow future expansion or reform actions. The modular skylight covered-up makes an identifiable profile, a fifth facade, visible from near residential buildings.
The configuration of dining hall and gym building is based on the clear distinction between the two main rooms of different surface and height although both airy and covered with skylights, and their respective service areas: toilets, kitchen, and facilities in the case of dining, locker rooms, toilets and stores, in the gym.
The attention to scale and volumetric fragmentation is also present in the linear building intended for elementary education. In this case, the project focused teaching areas in a volume of three floors, while the rest of the program (lobby, auditorium, library) are situated on the ground floor, linked to access. This arrangement allows the independent use of these spaces outside school hours. Given the organisation of classrooms, largely dictated by the economic logic of such projects, stairs are proposed as unique spaces in contrast to the regulatory route. The position and configuration of the three cores makes them transition spaces of relationship with the outside as lookouts that provide lighting and distant views from different levels indoors.
Both the haste in construction times of the phases and budget constraints conditioned building solutions and materials, advising to choose a standardised modulation system to facilitate its implementation. The use of composite panels with natural wood siding responds to reconcile the idea of industrialisation and speed of execution with a nice finish for the child. Within a rigorous modulation, the variable arrangement of the panels, horizontal or vertical, colour and finish in places, provides certain resonances of play, appropriate to the character of the project. Latticed aluminum slats protect classrooms and sieved solar radiation outside the presence in the classroom. In contrast to the chromatic treatment abroad, the interiors are characterised by neutral and uniform finishes; the surfaces in contact with the child, floors and walls, are finished to a certain height in continuity material in each space, and those out of reach in white with sound absorbing materials. The result is a school built entirely with industrial techniques that have enabled significantly lowering costs and deadlines.