Overlapping functions: International school in Latvia
Architects: 8 A.M.
Location: Piņķi (LV)
The basic idea at the Exupéry International School is that kindergarten is already a school (pre-school). Accordingly the logical consequence was to unite the two functions and thus provide the children a place where they are able to adjust and feel free and at home.
This educational concept is substantially underpinned by the architecture of the building. The kindergarten is situated in a volume with a circular ground plan, whereby the space at the centre provides a protected play area sheltered from the wind and noise of the adjacent motorway. The interior furnishings and surfaces imaginatively express the four different environments – forest, village, town and the world – that the children go through in four age groups.
The second building forms a protective barrier between the road and the kindergarten, whereby sufficient space has been left between the two buildings for a large internal courtyard that includes an amphitheatre. At the place where the long school building forms a sharp bend, a clearly formulated main entrance makes a welcoming impression, and leads over to such semi-public spaces as the gymnasium and an assembly hall on the ground floor. Specially equipped classrooms for chemistry, physics, art and handicraft lessons are located on the upper storey. From here the students go over a ‘dream bridge’ to the regular classrooms on the first floor of the circular building. The resulting vista lines are to foster a bond and also mutual understanding between the school- and kindergarten children. The lattice of steel girders that makes up the supporting structure of the bridge is underscored in the contrasting colours of black and white, thus contributing to a practical lesson en passant, so to speak.
Due to a soil analysis and the form chosen for the building, the architects decided in favour of monolithic construction in reinforced concrete – a choice that enabled cantilevered canopies to shade the inside of the buildings from the sun. The vertical aluminium elements on the glass facades fulfil a similar function by reducing the incidence of direct sunlight.
The Exupéry International School enables a wide range of experience – spatial and otherwise – especially aligned to children, resulting in an intriguing, varied and inviting learning environment.