A school that works on many levels

Nick Myall
Monday 07 Sep 2015

CEBRA have developed a unifying concept that bridges the gap between school complex, nature and modern society

Danish architects CEBRA have won the international design competition for the Smart School educational complex in Irkutsk, Russia. The vision for the Smart School Project (umnaya-shkola.ru) is to create a new type of school - a “School Park” - that unites architecture and landscape into a unique learning environment and gathering point for the local community. CEBRA’s winning design, called the Smart School Meadow, proposes a permeable ring of buildings with cantilevering eaves that create a diverse environment with varying spatial qualities around a central campus area, the Meadow. 

“We have developed a both unifying and expanding concept that bridges the gap between school complex, nature and modern society in the form a diverse, including and activating learning environment. By turning a string of individual buildings containing the main functions into a ring the emerging central area becomes an interconnected space of cross-functional relations. At the same time, the gaps between the buildings along the ring make the Meadow both visually and physically accessible from the outside and allow for activities to diffuse between the Meadow and the surrounding landscape”, explains architect and co-founding partner Carsten Primdahl.

In order to establish a harmonic relation between the school complex and its surroundings while at the same time creating a safe environment based on recognisability for especially the small children, the concept uses the roof as a defining architectural element. 

The large roof surface ties the individual buildings together into a coherent complex. At the same time, its ridges and eaves in varying heights and sizes accentuate the different functions and units. They divide the overall ring shape into smaller, easily understandable units that relate the volume to the human scale. The ring is frayed at the edge, so to speak, so that the cantilevering roof in combination with the individual buildings’ offset volumes creates a series of semi covered niches, activity zones, learning environments and flow areas, which provide spaces for a variety of activities in the transition between building and landscape.

The Smart School educational complex will have room for 1.040 students, aged from three to 18 years, a staff of over 400, divided into several professional groups, and outside users.

The complex consists of a pre-school, junior school and high school as well as cultural, leisure and health centres, which are accessible to the public.

The school puts great emphasis on diversity and inclusion so that a minimum of 15% of the student body is reserved for orphans and children with limited physical capabilities. Therefore, a part of the site will contain a special settlement, where the orphaned children live with their foster families.

The design proposed by CEBRA in collaboration with UNK project, VEGA landskab and Niras was selected in a prestigious architectural design competition among five other proposals from architects including MVRDV, Sou Fujimoto, WORKac, Architects Rudanko+Kankkunen/Studio Puisto and MKPL Architects.

Nick Myall

News Editor

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