087_The Expanded School

Education, at all levels, has always been and will continue to be a recurring theme of debate and an endless field of experimentation. As it is responsible for the “programming” of successive generations, our societies’ future and evolution depend on it, intervening directly in its delicate configuration.
Throughout history, the consequences of its manipulation have been, and still are, clearly visible, and the earlier the “intrusion” occurs, the more influence it has…

How then should architecture respond to this uncomfortable reality?

When designing our proposal for the new Centre for Special Education in Madrid, our intention, beyond creating a building, has been to build a new “channel.” A space for exchange designed to explore and promote new educational trends, to enable experimental pedagogical strategies development, and generate a suitable and unique environment that reinforces the intellectual and physical growth of disabled children and children with special educational needs.
As a result, our building will perform as a kind of test pattern, a fixed sign displayed when the transmitter was active but waiting to broadcast a new program. The new school will operate as a base frame of open configuration pending programming. Our School will be a new media channel waiting to be loaded with content and capable of supporting subsequent updates.
The primary variable that drove our work throughout this process arose when incorporating the reality of an uncertain future as a raw material. To deal with the unexpected, we focused on a sort of neutral architecture, repeatable and standardized (modular), released from the tyranny of the present (CURRENT), and based on concepts such as unstable identity or programmed imperfection. The final goal is to design a building to be done, whose actual construction will begin the opening day.
Therefore, the New School will be an urban-scale building with a particular rural component related to domesticated natures, an antidote to monotony, immobility, and "comfort zones,” becoming a catalyst for non-conformist and proactive attitudes. We seek for an environment where nothing is as it is expected to be (or maybe...), where thinking and doing differently, where being a student, teacher, or neighbor involves participating, and where the prevailing heterogeneity will be able to accommodate any teaching strategy. The idea is to avoid predictability, designing a space to project ourselves into the unexpected and the unfinished that the user must discover.
This strategy will allow us to deal with a large and complex program for 1700 all-age pupils including, among other functions, secure lobby, reception, offices, parents room, large hall, multipurpose space, dining room, kitchen and formative kitchen, several types of classrooms, early years rooms, life skills room, library, hydrotherapy pool, gym, physio room, psychomotor education room, winter garden, sensory garden, cropping areas, outdoor playgrounds, and sports facilities, and parking areas.
The new building will combine concepts such as adaptability, creative participation, continuous updating, domestication of scale, typological decoding, constructive standardization, spatial and functional recycling, urban interaction, and progressive specialization to shape a new typology of educational environment: the EXPANDED SCHOOL.

Year: 2016 / Location: Torrejon de Ardoz. Madrid, Spain / Program: Educational / Type: Open Competition. 1st Prize / Status: Preliminary Project / Client: Juan XXIII-Roncalli Foundation / Size: 6.420m2