Rafal Secondary School / Grupo Aranea

© Grupo Aranea

Architects: Grupo Aranea
Location: Rafal, , Spain
Director: Francisco Leiva Ivorra
Architects: María Gadea Pascual, Martín López Robles
Collaborators: María Gadea Pascual, Martín López Robles, Marta García Chico, Marta Martínez Osma, Marian Almansa Frias, José Luis Campos, José Vicente Lillo.
Structure: TYPSA
Budget: 5.121.702,47 €
Project area: 6,195 sqm
Project year: 2003 – 2009
Photographs: Jordi Tost Llopis and Grupo Aranea

© Grupo Aranea

A suite of small interlinked courtyards creates a complex playing space. As in entering a walled enclosure, the building looks permeable from the interior and opaque from its urban context.

The route becomes infinite: shaded courtyards, covered walkways, terraces at different levels, small peaceful corners… a diversity of sensations succeed each other, multiplying the space.

© Grupo Aranea

The idea of creating an introverted perimeter construction capable of housing a complex interior space has much to do with a protective attitude but is also reinforced by the small dimensions of the plot, leading the heart of the star shaped courtyard to accommodate the sports zone and to partially make the most of the permitted (ground floor + 2), while creating a series of concatenated open spaces at different heights to counteract the limitations of the plot. The result is that, when crossing the perimeter shell, the pupils find themselves in a surprising central space where a set of acronyms at different heights help to understand the interior of the school as a single multiform yard extending over the different floors, configuring a great collection of relationship spaces at different heights. A three-dimensional organization chart built from reinforced , where each classroom or workshop occupies a differentiated volume, allows the acronyms to be seen from the entire yard. A single material builds the structure and the enclosure, permitting a considerable increase in façade surfaces while minimizing construction and maintenance costs.

© Grupo Aranea

The ground floor houses the specific labs and workshops shared by Secondary and Sixth Form: library, chemistry and physics and natural sciences labs, plastic arts and technology workshops, multiuse hall, students’ hall and cafeteria. These are halls with larger surfaces for specific activities that may occasionally be carried out in the open air in their respective associated yards and that can operate independently from the regulated school rhythm.

lower floor plan

The first floor groups the 12 secondary school classrooms with their specific IT and music rooms. The circulations alternate outdoor and indoor routes to give access to the different classrooms. This circulation space finishes in an extension of the central courtyard via a great pink hillock and a grandstand, halfway between the great central courtyard and the indoor pavilion.

© Grupo Aranea

The second floor houses the 4 Sixth Form classrooms with their respective specific rooms. Once again there is a sequence of indoor and outdoor circulations in order to emphasize the relations with the central courtyard, reinforcing the idea of a great courtyard extended in height.

© Grupo Aranea

The two protagonists of this grading of relationship spaces on this second floor are the aerial kitchen garden (recalling the farmland that surrounded Rafal, since this new perspective maintains a visual continuity with the nearby fields), and a small pink hill that owing to its strategic situation has become a popular meeting point.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Rafal Secondary School / Grupo Aranea" 02 Mar 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=115052>

9 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    why people always comment the same about schools? Is it really more appropirate for children a colourful plastic building with clowns jumping around

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Can a work of architecture constitute, in itself, a critical project? Can it change the way its users see their habitat, and awaken them to their supposed errors of vision and method? Can it take a stand in aesthetic and moral judgment of its surroundings, and propose a counter-model for a more environmentally and humanly sensitive method of development? These are some of the questions the architects of the Grupo Aranea set before us in their project for a High School in the small town of Rafal (population 4,000), located on a fertile coastal plain 20 kilometers from the Mediterranean, in the Spanish province of Alicante.

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