Project NameReggio School
|Project Name||Reggio School||Location||
48 Calle de San Enrique de Ossó
Located in El Encinar de los Reyes, an upscale suburb in the north of Madrid, Reggio School is no ordinary educational institution. Designed by architect Andrés Jaque, founder and principal of New York and Madrid-based Office for Political Innovation (OFFPOLINN), the private school eschews conventional building typology, swapping standardization, homogenization and surveillance in favour of a complex ecosystem that students are encouraged to navigate on their own. From the building’s quirky, cork-clad exterior, which looks like it’s has been drawn by the children themselves, to the wondrous interior that includes a semi-enclosed “agora”, an atrium that doubles as a lush greenhouse, and pocket gardens nurturing butterflies, birds and even bats, Reggio School’s ground-breaking design intertwines architecture and pedagogy underpinned by an educational process of self-driven collective experimentation.
Over five storeys tall, the school is made up of a series of stacked rectilinear volumes crowned by saw-tooth roof sections and punctuated by repetitive triangular and rectangular windows, large arched openings and googly eyes-like portholes. The result is a droll, offbeat building that looks like it was plucked out of one of Studio Ghibli's animated films or put together by a group of children asked to imagine a fun-factory. Made out of cork, the building’s rough-textured skin further enhances its imaginative appeal, imbuing the exterior with a primal, hand-crafted quality. Developed by OFFPOLINN as a natural alternative to the synthetic insulation materials, the cork wrapping also allows for organic material to accumulate, which will eventually turn the building envelope into a habitat for microbiological fungi, vegetal and animal life.
The building’s innovative insulation is part of a three-pronged approach to reducing the building’s environmental footprint, the other two being the selection of a vertical configuration to reduce land occupation and the radical reduction of construction materials which was accomplished by avoiding extraneous elements such as claddings, drop ceilings and raised technical floors. The latter also means that “the building unapologetically allows pipes, conduits, wires and grilles to become part of its visual and material ecosystem”, as the architects put it, which is another way in how the school’s architecture encourages children to make sense of their surroundings. Sustainability aside, the building’s vertical configuration also reflects the school’s pedagogical organization: younger children start their education on the lower level and gradually move up the building as they get older.
At the heart of the building, a monumental, 8-metre-high, 460-square-metre multipurpose space serves as the school’s social hub which can be used as a gymnasium, assembly hall, and art classroom, as well as host PTA meetings and community events. With the ability to semi-open to the exterior through a wide arch that leads to a covered terrace, the space was conceived as a modern-day agora complete with expansive views of the verdant landscape. Higher up the building, the classrooms for the older students are organized around a richly planted atrium, not unlike a village bordering a forest, a layout that reflects, in Andrés Jaque’s words, “an increased ability to explore the ecosystem of the school for oneself”.