Playful, but not childish: School in Barcelos
Architect: Cerejeira Fontes Architects
Location: Av. João Paulo II, P–4750-304 Barcelos
At the end of 2015, Cerejeira Fontes Architects built a high school in the northern reaches of Portugal. Despite the difficult site, it was apparently effortless for them to make all areas of the complex accessible, even for people with limited mobility. Barcelos, the location, is a hilly town with a well-preserved historical centre. The schoolbuilding stands confidently apart and introduces new ways to interact with the topography.
The building does not consist of a rigid structure that cuts into the grounds, rather of three units. Each of these has its own outdoor area. From these schoolyards, the students have access to a polygonal pool surrounded by trees. Moreover, the complex building offers a diverse landscape for play and relaxation during the breaks. A central tract connects the three building parts. While these three volumes are arranged parallel to the slope, the tract lies orthogonally to them. It is not only the most important element from the logistical point of view, but visually as well. The long façades are linked with zigzagging concrete supports. In contrast to the rest of the surfaces, which are of exposed concrete, glass and steel are prominent features here. In fact, they create the unmistakable identity of the entire ensemble.
Inside, the same open, honest hand is carried through in the construction. In many areas, pipes, cables and insulation are not concealed behind a suspended ceiling, but visible to all. This serves to accentuate the height of the spaces, but also adds a bit of warmth to the exposed-concrete surfaces, which might otherwise look a bit bare.
The corridor at the heart of the school is connected to all communal functions. The library, a cafeteria and the teachers’ room are all accessible here. However, there is a difference between access for students and that for teachers. While the students follow the guidance system in the lower part of the tract, the teachers can avoid the hurly burly by using a bridge, built just for them, that leads to all areas.
The school in Barcelos lives from playing with the angular shapes of the building’s shell, the cold concrete, the soft green of the grounds and deliberately placed touches of colour.