12 education centres that are, a lesson in architecture in themselves lifestyle
From façades that lead the way in innovation to sustainable constructions and campuses that are a masterclass of stories.
If we have learnt something from recent months (and from Darwin), it is that only by adapting can we move towards the future, and this is a time of change. Perhaps the beginning of a new world and the much-publicised “new normal”, which, in an atypical return to school, has forced the education system to rethink itself. And educational premises themselves are not exempt from this re-examination. The future of schools, universities, institutes and campuses involves functionality, sustainability and security, highlighting the use of materials such as Krion that are resistant, durable and easy to clean, the creation of sustainable structures and systems with maximum energy efficiency, the integration of green spaces and innovation. But, in the words of the multidisciplinary Buckminster Fuller, “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” Architecture does not only need to be practical, it also has an aesthetic mission. That’s why we’ve been around the globe to find a dozen examples of outstanding schools that, as Fuller would say, solve the problem with top marks.
1.UNIVERSITY OF THAMMASAT, IN BANGKOK
At 7,000 square metres, the rooftop farm of this university in Bangkok is the largest such green space in Asia, designed to imitate the rice paddies that are always seen on Thai postcards. Teachers and students cultivate the farm according to organic principles. It uses rainwater, which it absorbs and stores, guaranteeing water efficiency; no pesticides or insecticides are used; and it is open to anyone who wants to have a green space in which to grow their dinner. An outstanding example of agriculture and urban architecture, which opens up an interesting path, considering that by 2050 80% of the world’s population will live in cities. “We tend to make a distinction between buildings and green spaces, but this type of space can be part of the design of buildings in cities such as Bangkok, where there are few green areas,” says Kothackorn Voraakhom, CEO and founder of Landprocess, the urban design firm in charge of the project.
2. OLYMPE DE GOUGES CHILDREN’S SCHOOL, IN FRANCE
They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a building by its façade, but here we are going to make an exception: few schools reflect children’s energy as well as this one in the French town of Le Plessis-Trévise. The Atelier Pierre Dubus architecture studio, which was responsible for the project, wanted it to have a different look and this gave rise to the idea of using coloured panels and enhancing the surface with stars in relief. But they did not neglect the technical aspect or safety: when making this 700-square metre ventilated façade they used Krion™, the Porcelanosa Group’s compact mineral, in the 1100 Snow White version, backed with glass fibre mesh anchored with a special Butech, K-fix fixation system.
3. FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE
Having its own tour is not an American exaggeration: this Methodist institution, built next to Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland, is the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world. A full dozen, although the initial project had eighteen, connected by a two-kilometre network of covered walks. It was 1938 and the architect was 67 when he visited the university to plan what was to become one of his greatest works, possibly on a par with the Guggenheim Museum in New York and declared a site of national historical interest in 2012. He spent two decades on what was meant, from the very beginning, to be “an education temple”, as stated in the telegram that Wright received inviting him to take charge of the project.
4. EL CENTRO CAMPUS, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, CHICAGO
As if taken from a science fiction film, this futuristic construction is part of the extension of one of the four campuses at the University of Illinois. The JGMA (Juan Gabriel Moreno Arquitects) studio, commissioned by the institution, attracted by its contemporary vision of architecture and its commitment to merging aesthetic innovation with the latest technology, is transforming the skyline of Chicago. The feature that first strikes us is asymmetry, combined with marked volumes that round off its galactic appearance. The result is a fresh, dynamic design that enhances the natural light in interior spaces through a façade that is almost entirely glazed. Overall, it generates a pleasant, comfortable environment that encourages students to learn, even outside the classroom. In the lower part of the building, the large picture windows are combined with a ventilated façade covered with On Black Nature technical porcelain stoneware by Urbatek. This material has excellent technical features thanks to its high resistance, even in adverse weather conditions, and an elegant appearance that perfectly suits the style of the whole. But the unmistakable oblique silhouettes that define the personality of El Centro on its exterior also define the interior, where several counters have been installed using the Porcelanosa Group’s new Krion™ material. But this is not the only place where we can see this new generation compact mineral, which is also to be found on the walls of the entrance to the university facilities. And, as if this were not enough, El Centro reserves one last trick for spectators viewing it from the Kennedy highway, beside which it stands. The building changes colour according to the point from which it is viewed, thanks to a succession of bi-colour panels that run along the glazed façade. As a result, drivers see the building differently when they are travelling to work or going home. Those travelling towards Chicago see it as yellow, while those driving in the opposite direction see it as blue.
5. THE CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
The CUHK Library is the second oldest in the country, founded in 1963 as the result of the merger of three institutions (New Asia College, Chung Chi College and United College), resulting in a 137-hectare educational complex with 168 buildings. Of its seven libraries, the main collection, University Library, was built in the 1970s and, after the construction of an annex in the 1980s, it has been enlarged again. This time, Pang Architects have added three completely independent but interconnected sections, creating a coherent whole where the large central staircase acts as a meeting point and sustainability plays a key role. It is the winner of numerous awards: Special Architectural Award in the 2013 annual awards of
the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the HK BEAM (Building Environmental Assessment Method) Platinum Standard, the Hong Kong Department of Environmental Protection’s certificate of excellence for indoor air quality, an award for design from Asia Pacific Interior Design Awards, and a mention among the 10 best public space designs nominated by HKIDA (Hong Kong Interior Design Association).
6. CARMEN MARTÍN GAITE BUILDING UNIVERSIDAD CARLOS III CAMPUS, MADRID
The architecture of educational establishments often tends to be rigid and repetitious. However, the Beldarrain Studio wanted to break away from this tradition with this project, aiming for a more flexible design, characterised by aesthetic and technological innovation, which contribute to the building’s sustainability. It is intended to connect with the needs of students and teachers, providing spaces for the implementation of new learning and research models. This is one of the complexes designed to expand the Getafe campus of Universidad Carlos III, Madrid, the first of a series of buildings located on either side of a park for the exclusive use of pedestrians. The eye-catching ventilated façade is covered with ceramic materials by the Porcelanosa Group and follows a pattern of ceramic slats and windows running along the building, which is connected by a walkway to a pre-existing construction. The large lobby is a central area that allows you to go from one side of the building to the other while providing access to different spaces and areas with different uses. On either side, the Humanities Library and the Aulario occupy two floors, and above these there is a floor for the different departments’ offices. The numerous sustainability measures applied in its design have reached levels of excellence never seen before in an educational building in Spain, earning it LEED Platinum certification, as well as a special award for Energy Efficiency in the seventh edition of the Architecture and Interior Design Awards.
7. THE NOOR-E-MOBIN G2 PRIMARY SCHOOL, IN IRAN
It is not just its location, in the middle of the desert near Bastaam, that surprises us. It is also its design, completely different from what we are used to seeing. Instead of a closed space, the architects of the FEA Studio conceived the centre as a series of classrooms connected, rather than divided, by open-air courtyards and corridors. The idea, the project’s creators tell us, was to create a “neighbourhood”, emphasising the idea of students interacting with each other and with the space surrounding them, and reflecting a more dynamic concept of education in a building. “Most people believe that serious learning can only take place in a classic system. Others believe that you can learn anywhere. There is not a single answer to the question of what education is, but we can consider its ultimate purpose. The Noormobin educational complex emphasises the students’ freedom by giving them an open space and a distinctive education system.”
8. FACULTY OF LAW I, PARIS
When the Parisian institution commissioned the Chartier Dalix Architectes studio to modernise the Lourcine barracks, they understood that preserving the historical character of the site was key: Located in the 13th Arrondissement, it comprises a garrison with military buildings that were erected in 1875. The project required the construction of a library, a lecture hall, classrooms and offices, but it had to be carried out “without erasing its past.” Et voilà: a perfect blend of modernity and history, where the courtyard, which remains intact, retains its role as a symbol and an entrance hall, leading to the gallery and the lecture theatre, while the classrooms are incorporated into existing buildings, making the most of the space available.
9.INSTITUTE OF IMAGE-GUIDED SURGERY (IHU), STRASBOURG
Providing a relaxing environment for those doing demanding and exhausting work in the healthcare sector through careful attention to aesthetics is the main purpose of this project. Located in the new University Hospital in Strasbourg, it extends for 13,000 square metres and has been designed by the S&AA architecture studio. The basis of their work here is their mastery of straight and angular lines, extending them into the building, which has the Institute’s reception area at its centre. This is undoubtedly the core around which all the Institute’s activity revolves, and for which the Porcelanosa Group’s new generation KRION™ Solid Surface has been used. This high-quality material that resembles natural stone has been chosen because of its composition (two-thirds natural minerals without any additives) and because it is hard, resistant and easy to clean and maintain, which makes it perfect for the Institute’s needs. The impressive 17-metre long counter combines the finish of Krion™ with wood, achieving total harmony between the two materials and creating a series of soft, continuous, aesthetic lines. It also complies perfectly with the ecological principles of construction, and is designed to be energy sustainable using natural materials, while it incorporates the latest medical imaging technologies, with a view to being at the cutting edge in medical equipment and research.
10. YALE UNIVERSITY, CONNECTICUT
“This campus is one of the best places to take a walk while admiring 300 years of architectural history”, according to Robert A. M. Stern, Dean of the School of Architecture at the prestigious American university. Since its foundation in 1701, this exclusive member of the Ivy League has not only taught famous students such as Hillary Clinton, Jodie Foster, John Kerry and Meryl Streep, but has boasted an architectural repertoire that includes styles ranging from Georgian to Gothic, culminating in the most contemporary and futuristic, as exemplified by the School of Administration, the work of Norman Foster’s studio. But this is not the only project in the complex that attracts attention. After the Second World War a considerable number of new buildings appeared on the campus. They include the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where wooden structures and organic forms play with light; the Connecticut Hall, the oldest in the complex and the only survivor of the colonial era, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (proud owners of a copy of the first Gutenberg Bible), whose façade lacks windows and is built with granite and white marble from Vermont, forming a concrete grid that allows light through, providing low level interior lighting to offer visitors an ambience appropriate for the old books and scrolls on display inside. Proof that, as they themselves claim, Yale has a tradition of not following any tradition.
11. UNIVERSITY OF MONTPELLIER, FRANCE
Ironically, one of the oldest universities in France, founded in 1220 and converted into the epicentre of knowledge during the Middle Ages, is about to inaugurate one of the most modern buildings ever seen, not only because of its design concept but also due to the elements used in its construction. Today, the city has three universities inherited from that pioneer, in addition to several public and private polytechnics. It has developed an ambitious expansion plan, for which the BPA architecture studio was commissioned, leading to the new Village des Sciences, whose main building, which presides over a campus of 13,000 square metres, is expected to be inaugurated this year. The new building comprises two floors, with a structure fully integrated into the urban setting. The inspiration for its façade comes from binary language and the Nouvelle style that Alain Jacquet promoted during the 1960s, with work linked to American Pop Art. The pointillism of his famous silkscreens, where there is a play of camouflage and chromatic hatching encapsulating figurative compositions, is clearly reflected in the façade, which is perforated by numerous circles. It was made using sheets of Krion™ K-Life, which are photocatalytic (they help to reduce environmental pollution), durable, tough, and non-porous. Given the complexity of the project, which uses sheets measuring up to 75,000 cm2 with 40% perforation (which would be difficult to achieve on-site), it was decided to shift the production process of the façade elements to Porcelanosa Group facilities in Spain. The project combines aesthetic and functional features in a single design, modernising the concept of the university as a hub of art, debate, and knowledge.
12. ESCOLA GAVINA, PICANYA
From the exterior, this multidisciplinary pavilion, an extension of the main building, which dates from 1980, already looks promising. The façade features a four-sided prism design that allows us to see the interior. The latticework looks like a wall from the front but actually consists of sliding doors. It is made of ceramic panels with glass circles, some of which are coloured, so that on sunny days, and in Valencia there are plenty of them, the interior is filled with colour. Inside, the combination of wood and metal, with the structure of the ceiling exposed, creates a composition that retains the style of the original building, by Manuel Portaceli, and recalls Terragni’s work in Como.
- 1 1.UNIVERSITY OF THAMMASAT, IN BANGKOK
- 2 2. OLYMPE DE GOUGES CHILDREN’S SCHOOL, IN FRANCE
- 3 3. FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE
- 4 4. EL CENTRO CAMPUS, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, CHICAGO
- 5 5. THE CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
- 6 6. CARMEN MARTÍN GAITE BUILDING UNIVERSIDAD CARLOS III CAMPUS, MADRID
- 7 7. THE NOOR-E-MOBIN G2 PRIMARY SCHOOL, IN IRAN
- 8 8. FACULTY OF LAW I, PARIS
- 9 9.INSTITUTE OF IMAGE-GUIDED SURGERY (IHU), STRASBOURG
- 10 10. YALE UNIVERSITY, CONNECTICUT
- 11 11. UNIVERSITY OF MONTPELLIER, FRANCE
- 12 12. ESCOLA GAVINA, PICANYA