Cascais School

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Cascais, Portugal

The architecture of the new school stands out with its character somewhat brutalist in the city due to its materiality and aesthetic, with three similar and pure volumes standing out through its rough exposed concrete.

The main building and long suspended block on pilotis has its facade composed of vertical and horizontal wooden brises which contrast with the rough and bare concrete and creates a warm layer that frames the windows in a somewhat random fashion. Despite its dynamic and arbitrary character on the exterior, these brises obey a regular and uniform rigor in the interior of the classroom modules that are repeated along the building’s facade. Under this volume, the main entrance of the school is placed in the extremity of the cantilevered architecture creating a semi-covered square blending into the urbanism becoming both the school and the public space of the city.   

The Cascais School, more than a school, in its traditional sense breaks from its primitive, secluded and enclosed urban plot, embracing the city and sharing its diverse landscape allowing for a continuous horizontal porousness. Once the school is closed, side the doors open on to the internal patio giving uninterrupted access to the sports pavilion, auditorium, library and park in an independent manner from the school allowing for various activities to happen becoming a venue for cultural and social and events to happen.

The main volume is distributed in three storeys and it houses all of the formal primary programme for the functioning of the school. The transparent base is permeable and houses the canteen and services. In the two upper floors, the classrooms are disposed along the facades with a central corridor. the administrative offices are on the upper floor of the school. Raising the main building as a design strategy created two square-like voids on both extremities of the building, one exterior and one interior, which confers a sheltered patio for the students to use on a pause or school break.

The second block, grounded and distributed in two storeys, houses the library and auditorium. This volume is connected to the school building through bridges that cross the open corridors on the ground level. The third and last volume is the sports Pavilion and is physically disconnected from the other blocks being accessed only by the patio of the school or the park. This volume is also placed over pilotis and they confer a covered passage and marks the entry to the park.

Conceptually, the project attempts to create a direct relation between the public realm and the urban landscape. Hence the project retraces the urban fabric connecting an existing cul-de-sac to the main road contouring the school and the covered square in the entrance, which conveniently allows for drop-offs and pick-ups of students to happen. As for the integration of the existing pine-tree park, the proposal envisions a wild and quasi-untouched forest setting where a continuous serpentine-like object contours the trees and makes its way through the park. This continuous object was designed to serve as a permanent seating area that would allow for the children’s imagination to decide its many uses. Furthermore, for younger children it would serve as a guideline in and out of the park.  

The phasing of the project is perfectly articulated in the project and is divided in two parts. The first phase represents the larger intervention both urban and architecturally speaking, nonetheless it does not condition the functioning of the current school. Additionally, the construction of the second phase does not condition the functioning of the school in the new building after its completion either. And thus can be done after the completion of phase one.


Renders: Ian Alves