Educating through architecture: in Porto, innovative spaces for the early school years
Minimal design, pure lines and colors, and inner courtyards that give natural light a starring role – the architects took an approach midway between innovative and conservative in their design of the Luso Frances School in the city of Porto. By creating new teaching spaces in the existing buildings, the project supports the most recent educational strategies and needs.
Designed by Pedro Mosca & Pedro Gonçalves Arquitectos, the project has retained both the Palacete (a historical listed building) and a chapel unaltered, thereby establishing a connection between the new and the old, between the future of the school and the history of the site.
The complex, which occupies almost all of a triangular lot, comprises five three-story buildings used for teaching and a basement used for parking. Its geometric volumes interpenetrate one another, creating hidden patios and internal walkways. The classrooms intended for kindergarten and the first two cycles of ensino básico (corresponding to elementary school) are organized according to a particular set of criteria, with the former located in the southern building and the latter to the north. Meanwhile, the central building includes the main entrance and acts as a distribution area for the whole complex, while the western building houses the gym and a 398-seat auditorium. This building has an independent street entrance so it can be used for activities not necessarily connected to teaching.
The multiple volumes of different heights and sizes interpenetrate to create internal connections, with three internal courtyards and spaces for play and outdoor functions in a safe environment. The main entrance leads into a large, full-height space, giving it a monumental feel. A skylight floods this space with light and creates a play of shadows.
The rooms are characterized by their minimal design, based on the simple, clean lines of the plaster surfaces and the continuous resin floors, which give the classrooms and corridors a pure, elegant style.
The gym is a single large room with stepped seating for visitors. The white of the stands and steel lattice beams, and the blue that defines the floor space create an effect similar to a swimming pool.
Finally, the wood walls, seating, and black floor of the auditorium create a stark contrast with the purity and whiteness of the other interior spaces.
Viewed from outside, the complex fits into its setting in a subtle way, almost camouflaging itself within it. The fragmented volume and the volumes set back from the street front lessen the impact of the architecture. The large concrete base of the façades emphasizes the horizontal lines of the composition, while the stucco finish creates a continuity with the boundary wall of the Palacete, accompanying the movement on the street and creating a single architectural element poised between new and old.
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Location: Porto, Portugal
Architects: Pedro Mosca & Pedro Gonçalves Arquitectos
Area: 9.678 m2
Design team: Pedro Mosca, Pedro Gonçalves, João Belo, Luísa Barreira, Pedro Oliveira
Engineering: ASPP Engenheiros Associados
General Contractor: Ferreira Build Power
Consultants: ASPP Engenheiros Associados
Photography by José Campos, courtesy of Pedro Mosca & Pedro Gonçalves Arquitectos