NAM Arquitectura has designed a bright, spacious and naturally lit public school, Escola Isbael Besora, in Reus, Spain. Its constricted, small, triangular plot had become a challenge initially; this was more than well met ultimately.
The words ‘Escola Isabel Besora’ affixed onto a curved wall welcome one, after a walk up a gentle natural gradient. There is no hint of a big open courtyard cum playground behind this wall. To a non-Spanish, neither the words nor the building provide a clue of it being a school.
The Isabel Besora School is in the city of Reus in the Tarragona province of Catalonia in Spain. NAM Arquitectura – NAM standing for the chief architect Nacho Alvarez Martinez – was assigned the designing of the public school which is run by the Department of Education of the Government of Catalonia.
The site designated for the school, proved to be difficult for the architects on two counts. Bound by railway lines on one side and residential buildings on the other, the sandwiched plot was also small and triangular in shape. But the architects turned the limitations around into an advantage, by designing an L-shaped building, accommodating classrooms for all of the primary section and at the same time providing ample play area.
With the temperature remaining at an average of 16°C and Reus getting rainfall for at least one week every month, the building needed as much natural lighting as possible, as well as protection from rain. In the L-shaped building with two wings, the classrooms have been provided along the external side of the longer wing.
Separated by a well-lit corridor, the other rooms such as reception, management office, concierge, library, staff room and the like have been provided on the other side, facing the open courtyard-cum-playground.
Along the entire façade of the building, vertical steel slats have been provided. The slats do not run in continuum, but are placed floor wise, accentuating each level of the building. The slats ensure that all the rooms get natural, filtered daylight.
The open spaces in between the grouped slats act as doorways and the corridor on the ground floor provides shelter from rain and direct sunlight, enabling the children to move between the various rooms. On the upper floors, the slats have been juxtaposed with glass panels. On sunny days, the play of light through the slats, adds an interesting visual dimension.
Given that a railway track is adjacent to the building, the concrete structure has been clad with wooden panels in rooms such as the gymnasium to muffle vibrations and better acoustics.
As the focus has been on creating a bright, natural and neutral environment, the interiors, clad with MDF panels, have been painted white. A colour coding in shades of grey have been incorporated to distinguish various departments and classrooms.
However the library has been given a colourful ambience with red book shelves and green pin boards. The book shelves have been deliberately kept open and without doors; this has been done to encourage children to pick up books of their liking and read.
As Isabel Besora is part of Escola Verda, a sustainability movement for schools, a corner has been set apart in the courtyard. This has been transformed into a garden space by the children. Along the external boundary too, narrow strips of land have been left free for plants.
Overall, Isabel Besora has a linear, uncluttered, bright and spacious atmosphere, perfectly suited for a school.
Text By Jennifer. S
Photographs Jose Hevia Courtesy NAM Arquitectura