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ArchitectsALEX GALLEGO, JORDI ADELL, DAVID TAPIAS, GERARD PUIG

CollaboratorsRICARD PAU, JULIA NABONA, CARLOS GONZALVO

LocationVILANOVA I LA GELTRÚ

ForDEPARTAMENT D'ENSENYAMENT

CommissionPublic competition. First prize.

BuilderTARRACO

m2333

m2926

PhotographJOSÉ HEVIA

Sant Jordi Solar School, Inner Sun Lights

How to build a school on a site that has a west orientation so that all indoor spaces have the best possible sun light? The many possible dispositions of cheap CMU blocks allow us to easily achieve this. The structure has to easily welcome a second floor in the near future.

TERRITORY / ECOSYSTEM

41º22’72″65 N 1º73’21″02 E The Sant Jordi public school, designed by MBM on the early seventies, was originally amidst orchards. It was separated from the town center by a riera -a Mediterranean seasonal stream. Forty years later, this riera has become a urban avenue. The school is still on the edge of town, surrounded by apartment blocks, suburban houses and the same old orchards, now on the verge of becoming a terrain vague.


NEEDS AND HOPES

The school needed some extra space. Vilanova i la Geltrú also needed to house, in the midterm, their public foreign languages school. So it was necessary to design a school that might be easily transformed into a languages school, that would be totally independent from the former, in a few years.

The commission is the result of a one phase public competition. Hidden amongst the documents, there was a plan designed by the Departament d’Ensenyament. During the first meeting we were told that the plan had to be followed. We found out in the next meeting that they meant it -literally. Such are the strange conditions of some public commissions these days.


SOURCES

As the project was an extension to a MBM (Martorell Bohigas Mackay) building from 1974, a Protected Architectural Landmark, we were suggested by the clients to use the same kind of materials. They were produced forty years ago, they are not available anymore. So we just decided to use whichever systems and materials that were easy to get. For still in 2014, material stock was an issue after the country’s economic downfall.

The MBM school was built during optimistic times.

The 'separata' we didn't see in the competition documents.


DIAGNOSE

In this particular case, the diagnose was crystal clear from the start: the plan we were asked to follow was wrong. So our task was to find strategies to transform a disfunctional plan, with bad orientations, into wonderful interiors where kids could learn and discover freely. The site was 140 cm. lower than the existing school, so it was important to think about a proper ground level for the extension. Both buildings were some fifty meters apart from each other, so a connection between them was needed.


SEARCH AND PLAN

The commission was to add six classrooms, a dining room and a library to the existing school. As the initial design scheme made by the Catalan Departament d’Ensenyament had some basic design mistakes which we were not allowed to change, we had to come up with a ‘solar building’, with an outer porous skin that brought optimal light and climatic conditions to the inside. Our goal was to design an indoors and outdoors learning space that provides engaging experiences for the little learners that populate it. Corridors become playgrounds and patios are sheltered by porches and a light and high pergola, that unites the new and existing constructions, a shade for the kids playground, and a protection net for the football pitch.

A hard, bare CMU block façade, which creates these conditions by very simple variations, creating patios, galleries and privacy veils. This climatic cushion not only negotiates with sun’s rays, but also with all kinds of atmospheric variations, so children can realise they all become good weather.  The school becomes the first porous passive structure built in Catalonia. It is based not in energy conservation, but in wise intercourse. The structure has to allow a probable first floor in the near future, because the new classrooms might become an independent languages school for the whole town of Vilanova i la Geltrú. A light and high pergola unites the new and existing constructions, a shade for the kids playground, and a protection net for the football pitch.


MATERIALIZATION


A DAY IN THE LIFE

José Hevia.

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