Sarandi Primary School
Pedro Barran Casas, PAEPU
Mg. Arq. Pedro Barrán Casas, Proyecto de Apoyo a la Escuela Pública Uruguaya
Ana Carolina Silveira (Intern) Daniel Rapetti (Structural Engineer) Ana Vallarino Katzenstein (Landscape architect) María Spósito (Estimate and cost) Gonzalo López (Electrical Engineer) Juan Sanguinetti (Plumbing Engineer)
Administración Nacional de Educación Pública (ANEP, National Administration of Public Education )
María José Castells
Many meetings were held between the community, future users and the designers. There we agreed that circulations should be open to courtyards, and thus promote outdoor activities, as well as enhancing daylight and natural ventilation of the classrooms. One major challenge was to design the School in this plot with a steep slope. We decided to locate the main access, composed by a public square and an open covered hall, in front of the kindergarten, and School’s public areas (multipurpose space / dining and administration) at both sides of the hall. The multipurpose space can be accessed either from the public square or from the hall, allowing for its independent use by the community. The upper level (with a secondary entrance from the avenue) holds most of the educational spaces. These spaces face an elevated courtyard that overlooks the neighborhood. This upper level is an “L” shaped fold, it closes to the south wind and to the west (to avoid noise from the avenue), but opens to sun on the north and to the east (views down the neighborhood). Finally, the School is built around a green slope that reminds of the natural state of the land before the building. This green slope has a stair and a slide to connect both levels, around a growing tree.
This Public Primary School has completed a new neighborhood, which foster social integration in one of the poorest areas of Montevideo, Uruguay. It was built by “Support to Uruguayan Public Schools Project” (PAEPU, in spanish), a government initiative set up to improve the quality and equity of primary education through the extension of “Full Time Schools”, especially in the underprivileged areas of the country. In this case, Pepe Mujica, the former guerrilla leader who became President, has promoted to build subsidized housing for the most deprived people, in a vacant area amidst the city. These people cannot save, so they pay part of the cost of their homes building them, along volunteers and professionals. The ownership of these dwellings is shared in cooperatives the size of a block. Although there is no private property in the conventional sense, nor there is much public space, so it was important that the School could share its facilities after school hours. The urban plan left a small plot for this School and another one in front of it for a Kindergarten. The plot for the school is in the limit of the neighborhood, in a higher ground, adjacent to a busy Avenue, and with a steep slope.
The importance of full time education in these deprived areas cannot be overestimated. Now-a-days the school is considered a landmark, and is helping to build up the neighbourhood´s identity. The public square is constantly used by the community, since there are not many public spaces. Also, the multipurpose space is often used for meetings by the neighbors. Historically, public schools in Uruguay have been built under small budgets and with low maintenance, thus, the construction system is simple. The structure is made of reinforced concrete, partitions are soundproof cabinets (which can be easily removed if educational needs change), and the interior facades are made of aluminum and laminated color glass. The design is modular, to make it flexible and easy to adapt. Nonetheless, the green slope and the elevated courtyard have a significant impact on users and help dignify them. As a child once told me, naively: “From up here, I feel great and I look the world from above!”