The destruction caused by the earthquake of August 2007 in cities of Ica’s region (south of Lima) gave us the opportunity to rethink, in a short period of time and in a very special situation, about educative spaces for state schools from a critical approach.
We believed that we should direct our critic towards the most important subjects on state educative spaces such as: the relation of schools with urban spaces, the relation of schools with the specific location (geographic and cultural condition) the condition of free spaces (courtyards and gardens, playing grounds). Also, what these schools mean to the people (how they perceive them and what these represent as state image). Connected with this subject we were specially worried by the militarised nature of the Peruvian state educative spaces.
The image perceived of state schools in Peruvian cities is that of a great wall, mostly opaque and of some blocks behind the wall, mostly all alike. This image repeats itself in all Peruvian cities, it is the image we have of the relationship of the Peruvian state with children and youth and with education and culture. State schools are almost the same in whatever city these are located. Schools are planned as barracks always organised around a central yard as in a military review. The architectonic idea of a state school has always been connected to the idea of a convent or a military barrack.
The idea we have of the image that a state school should have is something like the image of a democratic society. Spaces for public education should be those of social reconciliation.
After so many years of alternate military and civil dictatorships, terrorism and internal war, we now live in Peru a relatively calm and democratic era.
Our architectonic proposal was an answer to the requirement of establishing a new prototype of public educative infrastructure that replaces the traditional idea of school for the concept of “educative space”.
This meant not only to change the form of the infrastructure that integrates the school but that the school spaces be the result of a series of principles determining the relation of the educative building with its users as well as with the community. These basic principles of design that acted as modifiers of the traditional idea of school are:
1. PERMEABILITY of the school onto the city. We believe it necessary to change the existing relationship between educative space and the city through a wall by incorporating certain elements of the architectonic programme to the borders of the school. This permitted us to orient towards the city as well as towards the school, the incorporation of elements such as the auditorium, media or the workshops. At the same time, this permitted the school to develop alternative an fund raising that would help to pay for maintenance expenses of its new infrastructure.
2. CONTEXT of the educative institution. This principle refers to the specific condition of each project with regard to its location and of the topographic, climate and constructive features as well as those cultural and historical ones for which this project has been designed. This is not a proposal for a systemic repetitive module, it is a unique building so that the prototype character based on which other projects may be developed is the concept itself (all of these ideas or design principles) but not the building itself.
3. CONTINUITY based on terms of access and unity with urban surroundings. The school can no longer be a closed space within the city, its design must be an answer to the need to develop exchange and active relationship with the community it belongs to.
The process of the José De San Martín School in Pisco has been a confrontation with inertia, bureaucracy and conformism of the people in charge of public infrastructure. They felt that it was justified because – sometimes there was no construction and others the haste to build many in a short time – the critic and discussion of the design ideas and the cultural cost of state architecture could be left out from the assignment or the budget.
Finally we have to state that the project for the José de San Martin School has been, till now, our purpose to rebuild the relation of the public educative building with the community and its nearby environment it belongs to, and also to propose a more kind and transparent image of state architecture.
Location: Pisco, Peru
Architect: Laboratorio Urbano de Lima | Pablo Díaz, Diego Rodríguez, Cesar Vivanco, Sergio Guzmán, Francis Rivera, Iris Quintana
Engineering: SFL Consultores
Contractor: Constructora Luren+CEDOSAC
Client: Ministry of Education
Surface area: 49205.30 sqm
Build Area: 7656.64 sqm
Project year: 2007-2010
Photographer: arch. Jose Lao Siu