Refurbishment of the Children’s Village in Bodoquena
Estúdio Gustavo Utrabo
Gustavo Utrabo, Pedro Duschenes + Rosenbaum (Adriana Benguela, designer Marcelo Rosenbaum)
Beatriz Rocha, Denis Joelsons, Luís Eduardo Maranha, Companhia de Projetos (Heloisa Maringoni), Lux Projetos Luminotécnicos
The main objective of the project is to propose a different livability between the children’s activities and the landscape where the complex is grounded. Regarding that, the first operation leads to restructuring the connection between pavilions by lifting the children’s path at the same time interconnecting them along covered walkways. The insertion of these walkable connections respected the geometry of the pre-existing constructions, central courtyards and the routes etched in the ground by the children on their daily routes, free from the wet ground, and a layout which invents new patios at the same time as it opens up to the landscape. The replacement of the original tile roof to sheet metal, lead to a second lift: the raising of the ceilings heights to feed in light and wind to the children’s renovated spaces for living. The third operation added to the already existing activities, supplementary programs built at its extremities, working as supportive joints for the complex. These new open halls function as places for rest and sociability, while respecting the domestic realm of the dormitories. A modular system with a primary dimension based on the distance between the windows in the existing buildings was devised as a way to ensure accurate and efficient construction and financial execution. This single, constant module definition allowed a design with prefab concrete and steel system, repeating the existing modulation of the original houses and allowing the previous rhythm to rise in the swampy landscape.
The Refurbishment of the Children’s Village is situated in the Pantanal biome – the world’s largest floodplain with a continuous of 250,000 km2 wetland and a complex limestone aquifer with crystalline water, specific vegetation, monumental scale, clay soils and intense colors. While thousands of children from the region have attended this second boarding school since it opened in the 1980s, little have changed according to the site’s specificity. If the school now provides not only education, but also a set of homelike facilities such as food, lodging and all other necessary care to children throughout the large block, the walking routes and connections between the pavilions were still an obstacle to moments of torrential rain and soaked earth. Divided symmetrically between left and right, north and south, the children’s complex already had twenty-four dormitory pavilions, twelve on each side for 384 children aged 7 to 18 years and clustered into three groups of four in each side. The pavilions, in relation to the site, were already spun to the east and west orientation like weathervanes articulated by small courtyards, that were read as a quality layout for the daily activities of the children. The courtyards allow the children and its respective pavilions to face inwards, provoking a situation of more encounter in the immensity of Pantanal. The project seeks to expand their condition by interpreting their relation to the outer landscape, to the ground and to the inner spaces, as it is profoundly needed for a better and collective education.
Although the Children’s Village in Bodoquena had undergone large-scale maintenance work over the years, a new approach was needed as its initial profile no longer matched the Bradesco Foundation’s parameters of excellence. In order to meet these goals, the buildings were renovated to provide better comfort, energy efficiency, privacy, use of the existing facilities and access to the pavilions in the rain for children from low-income families at any time. The boarding school provided access to education and thus a dream of the future for thousands of children over the years. Facilitated by the clients, this project created a new dialogue between the building, the vast wetland landscape and, most importantly, a better quality of life for the children without disqualifying what has already been built. By reconfiguring what was already there, such as maintaining its rhythm or changing its relation to the ground, another relation to memory, the site and the experience of the kids in an educational context is proposed. The refurbishment allowed at the same time familiarity and unfamiliarity, such as in the educational process; but also, proximity and distance, such as maintaining the inner courtyards for the children’s closeness to its surroundings. The construction system also facilitated a minimum control of its execution, difficult to follow in such an outlying place like the Pantanal. Through that, kids are able not only to better interact with themselves and have a different quality of life, but relate with its own scale to the immensity of the local nature.