LocationSan Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Project TeamNataniel Fúster, Heather Crichfield, Sadie Winslow, Jose Pagán, Santiago Garramuño, Luis R. Albaladejo
Text description provided by the architects. The Pools are designed as a therapeutic facility for use by children with physical disabilities between the ages of 5 and 16 years. The facilities are open to the public but will be used primarily by students of La Esperanza School; thus the yellowish- green “verde esperanza” color of the exterior and the word “esperanza” (“hope”) written on the bottom of the main pool. This is the first structure of its kind in Puerto Rico.
The design incorporates the following premises:
-The project is located in an empty parking lot adjacent to the La Esperanza School. This location provides a connection between the pools and the school by means of a pedestrian passage that connects the two sites. This location also helped to maintain a low budget and provides space for a future expansion of the project.
-The protagonists of the space are the light and the sky. One of the most important intentions of the project was to create a unique space where natural light constantly transforms the atmosphere inside; creating a direct connection between the user and nature and facilitating the healing process.
-Every pool is treated as a courtyard; a prototypical Puerto Rican design element rooted in the colonial and vernacular architectures of the island. From within the pools the ceiling apertures with their tall cylindrical parapets frame the sky generating a direct relationship between users and the celestial sphere. This is important because children receive therapies while floating on their backs, looking upwards.
-The design focuses on empowering the user, highlighting and promoting the spatial experience rather than the clinical requirements necessary for a therapeutic space, while still meeting all the requirements of universal design. This differentiates this project from other projects of its kind which tend to focus on highly visible clinical requirements such as ramps and handrails, putting in second place the user experience.
-The material used for construction (a structural concrete insulated panel composed of a thermally insulating foam core coated with structural mortar) keeps the space at a comfortable temperature while the introverted design blocks exterior distractions while still allowing for ample natural light.
-The cylindrical shapes and curves of the project accentuate the introverted and tranquil character of the space creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for the therapies to occur. A small stream of water flowing into the main pool, while working as part of the filtration system, also generates a subtle splashing sound creating an atmosphere of tranquility, relaxation and peace. In contrast to the bright exterior the interior finishes are predominantly white and neutral, keeping with the calming therapeutic nature of the space.