The school is conceived as a small city within a city. An iconic, condensed form that encloses life, and endorses it. Schools are nowadays regarded as shared work spaces for both teachers and students. The interior offers peace and quiet for autonomous work and concentration as well as communal areas for joint activities and socializing.
A network of bright streets open to the sky and create detached volumes, blocks for learning, sports and recreation, designated areas for specific functions and streets, parks and plazas all linking together. In between daily life at the school, improvised social behavior brings to life new uses, random meeting spots, areas for private concentration and spontaneous moments for casual encounters.
The architecture of the school becomes itself an educational experience for its occupants. The place where young students spend their formative years leading up to adulthood can inspire, provide insight and understanding, and an appreciation of social values.
The clear gesture of tilting the roof defines at once the school volumetrically in the purest way. Its orientation towards the south creates an ideal position for maximizing the amount of incoming sunlight from the roof while avoiding overheating during the hot summer months as well as for installing solar panel systems on the roof and for incorporating green roof system applications.
The tilted roof is also a symbolical and practical gesture that corresponds to the interior placement of the program. Large programmatic units that require volume or additional floor levels and are mainly intended for older children are accommodated under the same continuous roof together with the one level units, such as the day care, which are mainly purposed for younger kids. Therefore the scale of the building and its public spaces correspond with the scale of the users. A space feels big only when compared with something small for the case of the small kids and the gradual transition of the interior scale from small to big and vise versa is appreciated and perceived in a unique and different way by each and every user.
The open to the sky communal streets and the volume side-operable facade offer a unique interior atmospheric experience and at the same time minimize the need for mechanical ventilation and lighting. Learning is not confined exclusively to dedicated teaching spaces; teaching and other activities can also take place in the corridors / streets, in the open air patios or terraces of the upper floors, the yards, the gym, or the larger halls. This block based architectural solution minimizes noise, reduces the need for lengthy migration from class to class, and cuts down unnecessary traffic. Transforming hallways to active everyday spaces. It also allows for spaces to open and close. Merging both communal and private areas into hybrid workspaces that can offer alternative teaching experiences. That a common social space is readily accessible in a central location further contributes to promoting social interaction and communality.
In Phase 1, the school’s program is carefully organized to physically detach the four main user groups of the complex and symbolically locate them accordingly. Older children are located on the upper levels, younger children are on the ground floor and therefore in smaller scale units. The Staff and Teachers are in between the two and adjacent to the main school entrance. Everyone is situated all around the school’s communal spaces each group with access to their own respective exterior areas. The clinic acts as a separate entity next to the main service entrance to facilitate its operation. A main circulation loop surrounds the school’s communal areas and is wide enough to accommodate resting areas and still act as an extension of the teaching spaces. Phase 1 opens up to views towards two large exterior yards, designed with thematic gardens and play areas on the terraces where Phase 2 will be situated in the future.
In the same way that the completion of Phase 2 completes the educational program of the school, so does the construction of Phase 2 formally complete the circular geometry of the building’s volume. The entire building after the completion of Phase 2 highlights the experience of a city within a city, where the architectural qualities of the double phenomenons of solid – void, light – shadow, small – large, and inside – outside are fully intensified and appreciated.
Construction of Phase 2 can happen without affecting the school’s daily operation, as the larger part of construction happens within the clearly marked boundaries. From one side are the two main stairs that lead to the upper floors of Phase 1 that are the physical, symbolic and structural borders between the two phases.
The circular form is the most energy and economically efficient structure and the program is intentionally condensed to leave as much open and untouched nature around it as possible. The school yard is conceived as a big park for all. The running track that surrounds the buildings and unrolls along its perimeter is also a space receiving the flow of students coming out of the building and distributes them to all corners of the school yards.
Additionally the inner school patio yards are communal exterior break rooms of a smaller more intimate scale for social interaction and protected for the weather conditions.
Associate Architect: Tuomas Raikamo
Project Team: Leonidas Trampoukis, Eleni Petaloti, Tuomas Raikamo, Ryan Whitby
Renderings: LoT & Denis Bondar
Commissioner: Aurinkokivi School, City of Vantaa
Site Coverage: 22,100m²
Total built area: 15,100m²
Project Year: 2012