School for 200 children of the 1st cycle of basic education and 40 children of kindergarten in Leça do Balio
Designing for the city
Located next to a existing school for the 2nd and 3rd cycles of basic education, the new building, by the street, forms the entrance for both schools. A ramp leads to the existing school and organizes the outdoors movements of pupils in 2nd and 3rd cycles, while two parallel blocks, whose dimensions are defined by the existing school, follow the slope and design playgrounds at different levels and of different kinds. The porches, the entrance ramp, the connection block and the exterior stairs, interweave the built fabric with the outdoor spaces.
Modulating the spaces with natural light
Adapting the building to the slope is accentuated by altimetry indentations in each block, which create two floor-to-ceiling heights: a lower one for the classrooms and a higher one for common facilities such as the cafeteria, gym and library. In the classrooms, oriented to the north, the neutral atmosphere becomes intimate with their low windows overlooking the landscape. In the common areas, washed by southern quadrant daylight and in continuity with the playgrounds, the wide space is deliberately made warm. Countless skylights complete the indented effect in the roof and punctuate the classrooms and their support spaces with southern quadrant daylight, and the circulation and service spaces with eastern quadrant daylight. This spatial modulation, by means of the light, re-designs the conventional matrix "school with corridor in the middle", with a repetitive prosody, which is accentuated by the use of openings with always the same dimension.
Creating a space for undefined use
In contrast, the central space that houses the entrance and connects the two inner levels, allows, by the generosity of its dimensions, undefined uses. Outside, this connection block expresses its ambiguity: sometimes identifies itself with the entrance ramp, now extends the covered playground. Here, the openings are appropriate to each face.
Surfaces with 'stony' connotations, such as the concrete with several textures and colours and the aggregated sand, seasoned by surfaces with organic connotations, such as the wood and the cork, reinforce the familiar identity of the building, solid, safe, available and open-faced to all experiences.