The existing Marquesa de Alorna School, designed by architect José Sobral Blanco in 1956, was one of the 50 schools built in Portugal according to the type promoted by the Construction Board for Secondary and Technical Education in the 1950’s. Like many of these schools, it had two main bodies, one containing the academic and administrative areas, the other containing the gym and cafeteria. The two bodies were linked by the main atrium of the school and the covered playground. In this instance, the set defined a patio surrounded by an amphitheatre-shaped slope with woods, the result from an excavation on the hillside to build the original school. The beauty of the patio has since been disfigured, as the covered playground was closed, cutting the visual relationship between the patio and the city, and as the slope was largely destroyed in order to allow the construction of a parking building owned by a bank.
As part of the "School Modernization Program" of the Parque Escolar, our project provides for two types of intervention, namely:
a) in the existing building, the atrium, corridors and stairs, generously proportioned with its floor and wainscots in hydraulic mosaic; the exterior walls in painted plaster; the window frames in painted wood and the roof in flat tiles are restored. The existing classrooms receive new elements to bring more comfort - a suspended ceiling, a window blind, a wall;
b) on the other hand, three new bodies are added to the set: 1) a tower with the new laboratories and drawing rooms , west of the existing wing containing the classrooms; 2) a body, designed as a bridge, with the library, links the existing body that contains the gym and the cafeteria to the classrooms. Under this bridge, a covered playground, designed as an outdoor hypostyle room and relating directly to the students room, restore the original visual continuity between the main atrium and the patio of the school; 3) a semi-buried body of spas under the sports field which is protected by a plant structure that partly recovers the green screen earlier realized by the woods.
Given a school in which the diversity of spaces and situations was increasingly reduced throughout its history, a sentence of João dos Santos served as a greater stimulus for the project: "If you do not have a village, my son, you have to go in search of it! A boy can not live without his village."
José Neves, arquitecto