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CollaboratorsPEP ANGLÈS






PhotographJOSÉ HEVIA

Kindergarten for Pratdip

How to build a kindergarten so its playground is protected from the strong Mestral winds that blow in Pratdip? The old stone wall we found on site helped us to design the building along it. A wide embracing back that left the belly of the place open and sheltered, while its interior could become an indoors playground in the cold winter days and was ventilated with a light northwestern breeze in summer.


41°03’07.3″N 0°52’07.0″E Pratdip is a very windy place. So windy that the whole town has been built as compact as possible to protect from it. The site is on the north western corner of town, which is the windiest and most exposed.

It is surrounded by farms. Some abandoned, some still in use. Some of them are an example of how to make a proper environment for their animals with the minimum material and very simple building solutions. Some of them aren’t. Some years ago, on the site, there used to be a farm.


The commission was to build a kindergarten for the local rural community. The location on the base of a mountain, and the open valley in front of it, allow the opportunity for the children to learn in direct contact with the elements. It was a prerequisite that the project had to be submitted before Christmas. That gave us six full weeks to do it.


Far from trying to imitate the surrounding farms and their sometimes clever, sometimes clumsy construction systems, we kept finding differences and distances between our means of production and theirs, between their use and that of a kindergarten. We learnt a lot from them, but we are not like them.


The site is located on the outskirts of town, surrounded by farms and abandoned almond fields. It is a very windy place, so it was important to find a way to protect kids from it, specially when playing outside. This violent wind had to be transformed into a slight breeze that ventilates the inside. There was a terrace on the site, and some farms on top, that could be used as an easy wind filter.


So Pratdip is a windy town.

The site has a soil wall on its back. The new reinforced concrete wall and slab structure of the building hangs on that wall, freeing space for the children’s playground, separating and orienting itself into three ceramic bodies (classrooms facing east, dining and siesta room facing south…).  The kindergarten stands between this concrete wall and a ceramic lattice that rolls all over the site limiting it (entrance, playground, porch…), hiding from the wind. The soil-covered roof, on top of these bodies, is at the same level as the back terrace, a small park for weekends. The construction system and materiality learn from the surrounding farms. The roof of the two intersticial spaces opens to north, so a steady light and ventilation of the common spaces is provided. The inner walls of the ceramic bodies are plywood board. The skirting board is green blackboard.

The construction of a classroom:


We were very lucky to have careful and rigorous contractors, and although the construction process happened to be right in the hardest moment of the global economic downfall, the building was completed with no big hesitations. During this process, the municipality asked us to design the tables for the classes, and benches for the park.


José Hevia. May 17th 2010.


What in the beginning were raw, naked surfaces of brick and concrete, has now turnt into a game board, where kids hang their drawings, and display seasonal customizations of each wall.

In spite of the wind, plants have grown, and new ones have appeared.


When in 2012 we were invited to present this kindergarten at the Catalan Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale, we proposed a game where kids from Pratdip would draw how their school was, and then exchange these drawings with the kids in Venice. The exhibition then went to other places, such as Barcelona, where the game continued. We made a small traveling desk where kids could concentrate and draw. This desk moved with the exhibition, and is now back in the Pratdip kindergarten. This is the video we directed and produced for the exhibition: