Architects: Girod+Anton Arquitectos
Location: Valencia, Spain
Project Team: Jorge Girod, Jose Luís Antón
Collaborator: Beatriz Coloma
Area: 1,071 sqm
Photographs: Mariela Apollonio
During the documentation process we found an article written by a British sociologist about educative systems and its influence on preschool children. In it a drawing of a bird made by a 3-year old boy was shown. It was drawn full of imagination; plenty of details and intentionally out of proportion, where the most remarkable parts of the animal appeared bigger under the boy’s look … its tail had feathers described almost as flames and had a big trail showing speed during flight. A year later, after attending nursery, the boy was asked to draw a bird again. It was shocking to prove that all that imaginative display made a year before was reduced now to a simplistic “V” shaped anonymous figure.
We understood that under our “grown up” look we would never be able to achieve a small boy’s imagination, and that we should not restrict the potential of preschoolers attending the future nursery with our prejudices, adult’s assumptions or just our lack of skills during the design process.
In that way we decided to “learn how to unlearn”, to blur reality, to reduce resolution, information… designing undefined spaces, abstract ones… “spaces of opportunity” where children’s imagination and their way of looking the world around them regains a leading role. Confronting the present moment of “destruction of imagination by hyperrealism”… where there is no space for own subjectivity.
In practice we designed an inner world for children. Nuno nono is an interior: rounded, liquid and abstract, where figuration is almost impossible… with no recognizable shape, reacting to the orthogonal, hard and edgy exterior world given to us by the city’s planimetry. There inside, the whole project turns around a central patio. In our eagerness to liberate the design of intentions we understood that the only material necessary to build this space was light, as it is an intrinsic necessity of architecture itself.
Light became so important that internally at the office we called the project “RGB” which are the three basic light spectrum colours, from which the whole chromatic gamma can be obtained by mixing them in different intensities. In that way, it was of great inspiration for us the work of conceptual audio-visual artist Alva Noto. During his performances he uses software developed to visualize sounds into an 8-bit world of basic light colours and simple shapes: a minimum display of information for the spectator’s own interpretation.
Like Noto’s performances, nuno nono represents each function, each room, with an RGB colour and its complementary. Where all functions meet together, the patio, colours turn into white as it is the result of mixing all three RGB colours at a time.
Everything is designed in light. Even a coloured path of led lights which, like at the Grim’s brothers fairy tail, guides its little users from the main entrance into their respective classrooms.
In order to keep the conceptual character of the project also during construction process, the challenge was to colour the spaces with light (RGB), not with paint (CMYK). To achieve such an idea we came up with a composite panel called “Bencore”. It is made out of three layers: two external 1mm thick “polycarbonate” sheets and a “san” core cell panel giving stiffness and texture to the whole set. The panels are translucent and thanks to the bended shape of the classrooms they happened to be self-supporting, so no extra substructure was needed.
The exterior layer was translucent white, when the interior one was selected with a specific RGB colour depending on the programmatic space that they had to wrap. Therefore, when light doesn’t influence the panels they appear whitish, and only when light crosses through them, the adjacent spaces tint themselves with the specific RGB colour, building in that way these spaces: with the colour of light.
We present the space in pure state, erasing all technical elements which may distortion it, such as handles, carpentry in doors and windows, etc… All we have done is to supply the necessary conditions for the light to fill, hydrate and tint all corners in the nursery, removing anything superfluous to achieve this goal. In that way for us it was a success to confirm that since the basic structure of the patio was built, the essence of that space would not change as walls, doors and all that architecture elements were appearing during construction.
With this project we offer to its special users a world of textures, of soft warm rounded shapes willing to be cherished… changing colours, lights and shadows… a place where the most important is how daylight transforms and paints everything as the day evolves; from sunrise until it lights up from inside at sunset…
Its walls are a communication interface interacting with the world around: “talking” about who is walking behind them, insinuating which moment of the day is… if it is raining or a cloud has passed by. Getting those sensations that we can find when we escape from the city into the nature, when being in a cave or sleep in the open. Buildings in our cities have forgotten the primitive cave where the first humans found shelter and now they are filled up with thick walls, thermal insulations, artificial lighting and acoustic absorbents… in a way that we are not aware anymore about the world around us when we inhabit them.
Nuno nono is a transmitter of sensations, a scene of possibilities, not of certainty. Nuno nono proposes, does not impose… insinuates, does not determine. The real play performed will be the one generated by children when running, sitting or playing . It is deliberately minimum, clean and quiet. Now when visiting it full of children, toys and movement is when better understandable is our intention. Nuno nono is a background and the action, the foreground are children and what they represent in this stage of light and colour.
To explain the operation of the building in terms of sustainability and climate control, we need to define 4 different areas in the building:
A: The central patio
B: The closed classrooms which are the only spaces provided with active climate systems
C: The “catalan style roof”. An adaptation roofing system used in the Mediterranean Spanish coast by our ancestors.
D. Common interior spaces between classrooms and exterior.
The first decision taken together with the client was to reduce drastically the air conditioned and heated spaces. The original volume was of such huge dimensions that we decided to reduce the conditioned space by limiting it to the enclosed classrooms, multi-purpose room, offices, kitchen and cloakroom. In that way only a 30% of the total volume has to be provided with active systems.
By using traditional passive systems, we also reduce the electricity bill by an estimated 25%. First of all, classrooms (B) are built out of polycarbonate walls and ceilings which allow natural light in from the patio and facades almost all year round, from opening time untill close down. Only between November and the end of February artificial lighting is needed before 6pm. All lighting is provided with led technology.
In the roof, where thrushes can be found (C), we created a small space which works as a “climatic pillow” between the exterior conditions and the common interior areas (D) . In summer it cools down the air contained in it by opening two sets of small gates: some on the façade, and the other ones in the patio: due to the air pressure difference between exterior and interior, an air flow is created renewing the heated air contained in that “pillow” with fresh air from the exterior. It manages to reduce significantly the heat due to solar direct action.
During wintertime, the gates are closed heating the air contained in it, creating a sort of air chamber which isolates the interior from the outside cold conditions.
During summer, the patio (A) is provided with a shade cover which allows 60% of light through and reflects UVA rays back to the sky. By opening the access doors to the patio and windows on the common interior areas (D), a fresh air flow cools down the ambient, being this action specially effective from 2.pm onwards when the typical thermal local wind, “garbí” ,makes presence almost every afternoon.