A building is many things. But there is something which distinguishes some buildings from others. These are the ones which have their own certain “character”, their own essence. We can think of the school as a huge workshop, where manual work takes on its own significance, spaces devised like an artist’s workspace, a design studio or a cabinet maker’s workshop. That “character” must be present. It must be the building itself. Each area needs to be functionally different, but students must also be familiar with all the activities taking place, and understand what is going on in each workshop. They need to feel part of the whole school, not only their own specialist area. We wanted to achieve the maximum visual openness possible, as a key part of the learning and training process.
The building, situated within a block of residential buildings, adopts the geometrical shape of its location. A lower section on one floor follows the shape of the property. Above this there is a section of the building containing the entrance, main foyer and conference room, with an orthogonal footprint. Its outward appearance expresses place, and new order. The ground floor acts as a base, built in black clinker brickwork, while the upper section of the building is the shape of a box, in a deep blue shade. The lower floor houses the workshops and the upper floor the theory classrooms. Both the two sections and their respective uses overlap.
The project is built in a modular format, alternating teaching areas and patios, using a simple layout the backbone of which is formed by two corridors running lengthways, connected by other polygon shaped halls and vertical shafts which make up a ring shape, permitting the optimum connection between all areas. The project sets aside little space for areas without a “specific” use. In the teaching of art, personal exchange, relationships and non-regulated information are all a vital part of the maturing process. A space where this can occur is necessary. The area established as the “entrance hall” is extended to the surrounding hallways, and a small rest area, with refreshment machines, which opens out onto the street. The conference room is positioned as an extension of the entrance hall, with the option of combining the two, with a sliding wall. This double height area is crossed over the top with the walkway which closes off the circle of hallways on the first floor.
This helps to achieve the sense of a large open space. The conference room can be extended, when an event so requires, to include the entrance hall, while the entrance hall in turn blends into the conference room when it is not in use. How this space is used depends on the users, and its size allows for exhibitions, debates, fashions shows…
This area is separated from the street with a glass partition, acting as a “shop window”, a glass case in which the school can display the results of its work and its activity to the public, and which acts as a point of exchange of information between students.
The modular nature and precise lines allow this glass section to blend into the concrete structure. The installations are thus made visible. All these aspects give added character to the workshops. The partition walls are built in plasterboard to allow future adaptations to teaching programmes, which are without a doubt fast evolving in the age of new technology. The patios create a certain level of compartmentalisation, without blocking the view between the different areas.
The conditions of the subsoil, and the fact that the property lies at a lower level than the surrounding urban developments, meant it was possible to create a semi- basement floor at little added cost. This is used for parking cars or bicycles out of view, although it will doubtlessly be used for other events at times. The purpose of the building is to remain open to the user’s imagination, allowing a certain level of dynamics. The school will be what its own “community” of users wants it to be. The intention is for it to act like an empty box, rather like a blank sheet of paper, open to the creativity of students and teachers.