FONTE DE ANGEÃO SCHOOL
Miguel Marcelino graduated in architecture from the Autónoma University of Lisbon in 2005. He also studied music at the Gregorian Institute of Lisbon, from 1993 to 1998. He worked with Herzog & de Meuron (Basel, Switzerland, 2003 – 2004) and Bonell & Gil (Barcelona, Spain, 2005 – 2007). In 2008, back to Lisbon, he establishes his own office and wins his first open competition. In 2014, he makes part of the official Portuguese representation at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
The method of spatial composition is interesting. The shape of the school building is formed with independent classroom-units spreading on the ground tied to regular features, rather than stacked with floors which it can be found generally. The design is out of conventional way.
Its design stands out in the typical form of schools in Korea. There is a freshness that is shown in plans such as the way of organizing units and utilizing the gap spaces as garden or skylight, even the completion of construction is only limited to a universal level.
Concrete, Brick and Wood
Ivo Poças Martins (principal, Ivo Poças Martins e Matilde Seabra, arquitectos)
Miguel Marcelino is in his early thirties and runs a (mostly) one man operation in his native city of Lisbon. This isn’t his first built work, since he established his own architecture practice in 2008, but it's certainly his most important yet. On his return from Basel and Barcelona, where he worked for a couple of years, he was awarded with 1st Prize on his first open competition, precisely for this building. Assertiveness and efficacy are thus strong characteristics of Marcelino's take on this design, and it is fair to say that this is his usual attitude towards architecture.
A VAGUELY URBAN SITE_ Fonte de Angeão is a parish of the Municipality of ‘Vagos’, a word that means ‘vague’ or ‘vacant’ in Portuguese. In fact, its urbanisation takes form mainly in small, low-rise buildings, linearly and continuously placed along regional roads where once stood a sandy plain, 10km from the Atlantic Ocean. These buildings occupy a small portion of deep and narrow allotments, perpendicular to these roads, originally used for agriculture. As in most of the Portuguese territory, this isn’t exactly the countryside and it is far from the common notion of a city.
The building's site, however, is secluded from this urban scheme. To reach it, one must cross a small creek to find it, fragmented in smaller boxes, surrounded by a forest of tall eucalyptus trees. Although the school is relatively small (about 3,000㎡), it is by far the largest building of its surroundings. It houses a kindergarten and a primary school whose children used to attend about 10 separate outdated learning establishments, dispersed in a 4km radius from the actual site. This was part of an ambitious municipal plan in 2006 to reconsider and rebuild the totality of its public schools. In its turn, it was part of a nationwide program. Vagos, however, stood out in this context being the singular case where five open architecture competitions where held in this process.
Only a wither gap, covered by a cantilevered metallic overhang, signs the main entrance and breaks the ensemble’s otherwise perfectly symmetric plan, with all rectangular shaped rooms, roughly organised along the cardinal points
In the heart of the building, the gymnasium stands larger and taller than the surrounding boxes. This difference in height allows it to be lit with clerestory windows.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX (ES)?_ The architectural answer to this lowdensity context and its natural green frame was given by breaking the building in individual box-shaped volumes, for each of the program’s components. All of these boxes appear in a somewhat abstract manner, apparently without openings, with a slight gap between each other. Nine of them, all together, work as the building's main facade when arriving from the creek. Only a wither gap, between the second and the third box, covered by a cantilevered metallic overhang, signs the main entrance and breaks the ensemble’s otherwise perfectly symmetric plan, with all rectangular shaped rooms, roughly organised along the cardinal points.
Form follows, quite literally, the functional program: it could be described as the extrusion of a functional diagram. The collectively used components, such as the library, cafeteria and the gymnasium are placed in the centre, surrounded by all of the classrooms. These have all the same height and width. Only the depth varies in order to provide different surfaces, as demanded in the building's program. This simple and functional strategy makes these outer volumes shift slightly backwards and forward giving it a subtle sinuous movement.
These apparently blind volumes are, in fact, naturally lit by large north facing windows. Wide views towards the outside are limited to the gardened patio between the next classroom's volume- a form of controlling the use of sunlight and, as the architect states, ‘promote children’s concentration in the act of learning’, in a somewhat monastic fashion. The exceptions occur in the kindergarten and in the final year’s classrooms, at both ends of the school building, where the large windows reveal the forest which, under strong winds, creates quite a dramatic kinetic display.
Corridors are wide and equally lit by windows directly facing the surroundings, contrasting with most classrooms. The 3.5m of width largely exceed the circulation needs, making it also an indoor linear playground. In the heart of the building, the gymnasium stands larger and taller than the surrounding boxes. This difference in height allows it to be lit with clerestory windows.
Varnished woodwork on flooring and both door and window framing, along with wood fibre cement board acoustic ceilings, complement the dominant material pallete.
Exceptionally, splashes of colour on the bathrooms’ and changing rooms' tiles or on parts of the gymnasium act, in this context, not as a sort of ornamentation but rather as a form of enhancing the plasticity of bare materials.
ALL IS ARCHITECTURE_ Materially, all is built in reinforced concrete bearing walls, left bare on the inside. The outer shell, covering the thermal insulation layer, is made of brick in a grayish-brown shade, similar to that of the local soil as it could be seen during the construction period. Varnished woodwork on flooring and both door and window framing, along with wood fibre cement board acoustic ceilings, complement the dominant material pallete.
There is a general sense of rawness in both form and materiality; not an ounce of paint or plaster was used to conceal the structural elements. Even electrical, ventilation and water piping and equipment are all left exposed in quite an informal way: carefully but not overdesigned. Exceptionally, splashes of colour on the bathrooms’ and changing rooms’ tiles or on parts of the gymnasium act, in this context, not as a sort of ornamentation but rather as a form of enhancing the plasticity of bare materials. Form, structure and infrastructure are all part of the same architectural discourse. The climate control system, described as ‘semi-passive’, is maybe the feature that illustrates this the best. In the summer period, clean air, cooled with the aid of the landscaped patios (yet to be completed), enters the building through grids under the classrooms’ window frames and flows throughout the adjacent corridors and rooms. Complimentary mechanical ventilation devices create variations on pressure to help redirect and exhaust the air. Clean air can be heated in the wintertime with heat pump powered water radiators also placed under the classrooms’ windows.
Aside from creating a parallel system for climate and ventilation, secluded from the buildings’ daily usage, it is integrated and naturally shared in its geometry and space. In a way, one can say that this building, and maybe Marcelino’s positioning towards architecture, is somewhat anachronic in both its language and design process, in a time when fragmentation and specialization are increasingly in the order of the day. Taking again the climate control system example, this is a case where technology and even environmental concerns are considered and well addressed without the need to express it ostensibly. When compared with other schools built and renovated in recent years in Portugal, where, generically, heavy and costly mechanical systems (to install and operate) where used to comply with the new climate control regulations, this solution in Fonte de Angeão is certainly a more effective and, therefore, more reasonable one. The choice of the use of raw materials and exposing infrastructure can also be considered an environmentally responsible solution as it requires lower maintenance and is more flexible to future technical adaptations without perverting the original architectural design. One can also argue that, especially when compared to other recent schools designed by young architecture practices, this school can be perceived as being ‘cold’ or austere.
The fact that this work is being presented now, when it is closed for summer after its first school year and not immediately after its completion, maybe stating that its use and appropriation are also part of its architecture. This first year of usage confirms that, generally, the design options where considered to be adequate. On one hand, this raw aesthetic functions as a neutral stage set where the users become protagonists but, on the other, it translates a conscious will to manifest and impose the architect’s particular ideas on how the knowledge acquisition could be processed, thus at the antipodes of being neutral.
Other completed buildings by Miguel Marcelino’s such as his House on a warehouse (2012) and Three courtyards house (2012) confirm that there is a coherent body of work, following the line of this project. But more than stating that this is a particular sort of ‘architect’s architecture’, along with other international examples, it is evidence of a certain crisis in the fast consumption of the ‘star architecture’ of the late nineties and the first decade of the two-thousands. Although architecture’s diffusion became increasingly fast, more and more examples confirm that there is an alternative path inspired by the past, without being nostalgic, that is, at the least, worthy of reflection.
Ivo Poças Martins is an architect and freelance writer from Porto. He established is own ractice- Ivo Poças Martins e Matilde Seabra, arquitectos, in 2003 and is founder and co-editor of Friendly Fire, an independent architecture collective interested in subversive and humorous narratives and practices. He was also part of the editorial team of Jornal Arquitectos.
There is a general sense of rawness in both form and materiality. Even electrical, ventilation and water piping and equipment are all left exposed in quite an informal way: carefully but not overdesigned.
Architect: Miguel Marcelino (Miguel Marcelino)
Design team: Pedro Dourado, José Figueiredo (acoustics), António Portugal (fire safety), Andreia Florentino (mural illustrations), Ana Luisa Ferreira (Plumbing engineering)
Location: Vagos, Portugal
Programme: Primary School, Kindergarten
Site area: 15.678㎡
Building area: 2.885㎡
Gross floor area: 2.885㎡
Building scope: 1F
Height: 3.8 m
Building to land ratio: 0.18%
Floor area ratio: 0.18%
Exterior finishing: Ceramic brick
Interior finishing: Concrete
Structural engineer: José Venâncio (Betar)
Mechanical engineer: Antonio Lopes do Rego
Electrical engineer: Fernando Carvalho Araujo
Design period: July 2009 – May 2010
Construction period: June 2011 – Oct. 2014
Client: Municipality of Vagos
materials provided by Miguel Marcelino│photographed by José Campos