Project TeamAna Vieira, Ricardo Freitas, Couto Silva, Fernando Vaguinho
Text description provided by the architects. Projects for equipments are always understood as design and construction opportunities. They are capable of hosting complex programs, which may play important parts in the day to day lives of the people who benefit from its existence.
In the case of the Educational and Clinic Centre – “República da Pequenada” – the proposed program includes Pediatrics, Obstetrics, Speech Therapy, Psychology and Occupational Therapy, in addition to accompanied study rooms, and meals and play areas.
To the programmatic constraints implied in the building, one adds the economical constraints of our private clients, and of the place itself, sitting on the periphery, just on the uncharacterized boundary to the adjacent region of Matosinhos. These are all understood as added responsibilities and challenges to model, modify and better the spatial context, participating in its transformation, dynamisation and even aiming to the valorisation of a predominantly housing area, deprived of any neighbouring equipments.
The building, while having its volumetry defined by an alignment study approved and imposed by the Planning Authorities, creates a play which encompasses the composition, uses and both physical and visual relations.
On the outside, the building steps back as much as possible creating a pit which signals its intended autonomy, whilst opening a grand window in dialogue with the passersby.
The selection of materials were, in what regards the aesthetical options, conditioned by a conceptual discourse of volumetric overlaps of solid and transparent pieces. Furthermore this selection answers to technical and practical constraints, as are resistance to wear and tear, thermal efficiency and even protection, as with the slate strip which contours the building at the bottom, from the user’s ‘mischiefs’ and from drivers.
The final facades aim to shuffle the real scale of the building and to relate to the children universe, emphasizing them as the most important users. It does this by introducing windows in a number and scale which seem unattached to standard measurements and to its interior floors. This guaranties the differentiation and affirmation which an equipment imposes and which a standard housing program will have difficult to match further than with a volumetric continuity.
Inside, the three height levels in the window’s positioning signal, on the lower strip, the children’s scale with a view to a world that no adult will fit, and on the higher windows, a life goal to grow and conquer the world outside. In the middle are located the windows which serve all users, teachers and students in a coming together and reconciliation of discourses.
The inner patio joins in the same play with all other elements. In one hand it brings the users together, by allowing them to view each other while circulation in their own areas, and on the other hand it strategically maintains them apart, separated by age groups, by activities and uses, whilst aiding in the natural ventilation strategies.
The basement does not correspond to the stereotypical enclosed and dark space one may expect, but manages to overcome it through the exterior amphitheatre, the patio and the pit.