On the outskirts of Madrid in Encinar de los Reyes, Reggio School by the Office of Political Innovation is a bold and whimsical school that stimulates the imagination with elements such as cork walls, concrete arches, eccentric roofs, and round windows. The six-story pilot project for the Reggio Center for Pedagogical Research and Innovation is modeled on the Italian education model established in the 1940s by Loris Malaguzzi that encourages child-led forms of learning.
Firm principal Andrés Jaque, also the head of Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, conceived the building as a ‘vertical city’, with each level offering a different feel and architectural style. As pupils move up in grade, they move vertically in the building.
At the higher levels of the building, facilities become more complex, with students in intermediate classes surrounded by indoor gardens nourished by reclaimed water and soil tanks. In this sense, the building is a type of ecosystem that avoids homogenization and unified standards.
On the second floor of the building, a large void opens through landscape-scale arches to the surrounding ecosystem. The 5,000-square-foot area is over 26 feet high and is envisioned as a semi-closed, cosmopolitical agora. Within the space, ecologists and edaphologists designed small gardens to host and nurture communities of insects, birds, bats, and butterflies.
The design, construction, and use of this building are intended to achieve high levels of sustainability while pursuing a low-budget strategy and taking an economical approach. For example, rather than extending the school area horizontally, the vertical nature of the school minimizes the building’s footprint, thereby reducing façade areas and optimizing the foundation design.
Regarding material specification, a yellowish-brown cork is the primary exterior material. This natural product was sourced from Extramadura, Spain and Alentejo, Portugal, and functions as exterior cladding and thermal insulation. It is applied both in vertical and pitched parts of the building’s external volume to provide a thermal performance of R-23.52, double that of what Madrid’s regulations require. This adds to the passive 50% reduction of consumed energy when heating the school’s interiors.
Finally, the building deliberately lacks drop ceilings, technical floors, wall linings, and ventilated facades. This measure reduces by 48% the amount of material used in facades, roofs, and interior partitions.