A residential district school 

Brusnika Company, Russia as Architects

A secondary comprehensive school is located in the European Riverfront district of Novosibirsk, part of a large-scale redevelopment project realised by Brusnika company. Currently 30 houses have been constructed with over 7000 residents living there. 

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Being an essential social object, the school was integrated into the district’s structure at the stage of its master plan development. The building is located in the heart of the district so that its central entrance is at the crossroads of two major streets of the residential area. The school is well visible from a variety of vantage points and due to its large-scale plot features an important public space. 

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The project team opted against an H or U-shaped school design, traditional for Soviet urban development and suggested a new compact form with minimal outer facades and a non-conventional layout, where there are no subject-oriented classrooms or strict space allocation. According to the project, the school has to be highly adaptable, anticipating both the immediate change and that likely to arise in a decade. While designing the building geometry, the architects optimised its area per student (compared to typical Russian school projects), thus allocating more resources into each square metre. 

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The building has four well-balanced facades overlooking four different streets. Each of them has its special features in terms of entrance setting and rhythmic window patterns. A balanced grid forming the basis of the facade maximises the window size in classrooms thus providing an increased solar gain for the interiors. In the dark stained glass windows expose bright interiors to the street transforming the school into a light source.  

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Corner focal points shaped by staircases play a crucial part in the building composition. Strong vertical lines create a unique design, untypical of schools, with large window panes revealing children’s random movement.  The main school entrance is a gate styled as an entry niche with piers on both sides welcoming visitors in. A signature digital clock creates a convenient  meeting place and in the evening the entrance turns into a light source, resembling a stained glass lantern. 

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The interior design is based on the idea of utmost openness and simplicity - the classrooms are linked with transparent partitions. Along with concrete pillars, the ceiling and polymer self-levelling floors merely acting as a background, the entire school becomes one multifunctional space.  

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There are no dedicated classrooms - they have been replaced with four clusters: media and art, sport, science and technology. The space within the clusters is universal and can be used for studying several subjects. The size and shape of the rooms promote versatile teaching techniques and different seating arrangements depending on the lesson objectives. To achieve this, the project team chose light mobile furniture, easy to arrange for traditional lessons, small and large group classes, and informal events. Glass partitions between the rooms and the corridor increase solar gain and create more transparency in the learning environment. 

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Public spaces are at the centre of the building, featuring a universal atrium and a glass dome gym. Both central areas capture the maximum of sunlight and create additional light sources for corridors. 

The atrium was conceived in lieu of a conventional assembly hall. Equipped with a wooden rostrum and staircase in one, it is designed as a flexible, multi-purpose space to accommodate both large-scale and small-scale events: lectures, concerts, drama performances and breaks between the classes. A recreational zone with poufs, settees and plants is located nearby. Its  transparent and mobile partitions link the atrium to the canteen and music classroom both visually and physically. Another adjoining room is the dance studio. If required, they can all be transformed into a single area. 

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The school is equipped with two gyms of different sizes. The big gym is designed to maximise solar gain. Due to glass partitions, games and training sessions are available to everyone. The use of wood in the lower part of the gym makes it human-scaled providing storage space for sports gear. Concept-wise, the small gym is a replica of the big one. Stained glass on second and third floor levels link it to the atrium and a transparent dome fills it with sunlight. 

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