41º22'72"65 N 1º73'21"02 E
The Sant Jordi public school, designed by MBM on the early seventies, was originally amidst orchards. It was separated from the town center by a riera -a Mediterranean seasonal stream.
Forty years later, this riera has become a urban avenue. The school is still on the edge of town, surrounded by apartment blocks, suburban houses and the same old orchards, now on the verge of becoming a terrain vague.
The school needed some extra space. Vilanova i la Geltrú also needed to house, in the midterm, their public foreign languages school. So it was necessary to design a school that might be easily transformed into a languages school, that would be totally independent from the former, in a few years.
The commission is the result of a one phase public competition. Hidden amongst the documents, there was a plan designed by the Departament d'Ensenyament. During the first meeting we were told that the plan had to be followed. We found out in the next meeting that they meant it -literally. Such are the strange conditions of some public commissions these days.
As the project is an extension to a MBM (Martorell Bohigas Mackay) building from 1974, we were suggested by the clients to use the same kind of materials. They were produced forty years ago, they are not available anymore.
So we just decided to use whichever systems and materials that were easy to get. For still in 2014, material stock is an issue after the country's economic downfall.
Architecture: Jordi Adell, Alex Gallego, Gerard Puig, David Tapias.
Structural engineer: Manel Arguijo.
Architecture collaborators: Júlia Nabona, Ricard Pau, Carlos Gonzalvo.
In this particular case, the diagnose was crystal clear from the start: the plan we were asked to follow was wrong. So our task was to find strategies to transform a disfunctional plan, with bad orientations, into wonderful interiors where kids could learn and discover freely.
The site was 140 cm. lower than the existing school, so it was important to think about a proper ground level for the extension. Both buildings were some fifty meters apart from each other, so a connection between them was needed.
The commission is to add six classrooms, a dining room and a library to the existing school. As the given initial scheme had some basic design mistakes which we were not allowed to change, we had to come up with a ‘solar building’, with an outer porous skin that brought optimal light and climatic conditions to the inside.
A hard, bare CMU block façade, which creates these conditions by very simple variations, creating patios, galleries and privacy veils. The structure has to allow a probable first floor in the near future, because the new classrooms might become an independent languages school for the whole town of Vilanova i la Geltrú.
A light and high pergola unites the new and existing constructions, a shade for the kids playground, and a protection net for the football pitch.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
On October 15th 2015, we visited the school with José Hevia. The students were there since September. We'll come back during 2017 to document the changes in its life.
All photographs © José Hevia
In January 11th 2017, José came back to the school.
All photographs © José Hevia