Kindergarten & School in Ispaster, Spain

The first decision governing this project is the building’s positioning on the new plot to the northeast. This strategy frees up the southwest part wholly for the playground and prevents the need to demolish the northeast wing of the existing building during the construction of the new building.

The volumetric design is conceived in such a way as to free up as much space as possible in front of the northeast façade so that it can be used as a second outdoor recreation space—perhaps also as an outdoor classroom—in direct relationship with the landscape. On this northeast façade, an entrance to the first floor is provided, the main access being on the southwest façade.

The main access is deliberately placed in the southern corner of the building, that is, the part most easily perceptible from the itineraries coming from the center of the village. The building’s volumetric outline is conceived as a contemporary reinterpretation of the Basque farmhouse typology; echoing it while moving away enough so as not to fall into an undesired mimicry. The main facade, the most urban, has two levels, while the northeast, with only one, presents a more domestic scale. Two different perceptions of the school.

The building is imagined as a unitary and recognizable volume—comprising the roof and the first-floor envelope—that rests on a lower plinth housing the ground floor. The plinth is slightly set back from the upper volume so that a slight overhang appears along the entire length of the southwest and southeast façades.

On walking from the west corner of the building to the east, this overhang generates a sequence of covered outdoor spaces: one associated with the playground, prior to the gym access; another as a covered hall around to the south corner; and finally, the covered space of the porch linked to the children’s classrooms. In addition to this sequence of covered outdoor spaces, the concept of a floating upper volume gives rise to the singularity needed for a public program such as that of this educational center.

With the exception of the roof (made out of metal sandwich panels, as recommended in the design criteria for schools in the Basque Country), wood is chosen as a material for the entire building. In keeping with the volumetric division of the building, however, different shades are chosen for the first and the ground floors. The upper, floating volume is clad in taupe grey, while the lower one presents the natural tone of the wood inside—as if, once subtracted the “L” volumetric portion engendering the overhang, the ground floor revealed the material entrails of the building.

Very deliberately, the gym faces the playground area on the ground floor. That way it can open completely to the outdoors, thus integrating with it: it could serve as a covered recreation area; host physical education classes and parades combining outdoors and indoors; etc. Given the easy access from the outside and the possibility of being used outside of school hours, the gym could also house extracurricular activities and events.

The interior spatial arrangement is worked out on the basis of both functionality and adaptability to change. For example, the gym could be divided into three large classrooms, and the layout of the upper classrooms enables a flexible floor plan which, in addition to supporting furniture alternations, allows use changes over time, thereby adapting to the future needs of the center. These classrooms are, in turn, internally connected to each other through large doors so that joint activities can be carried out between them.


Location: Ispaster, Spain

Type: Kindergarten, primary, and middle school

Scale: 1.830 m2 (19,700 SF)

Status: 4th place in restricted competition (2022)

Lead Team: José Aragüez with Lihan Jin, + EOVASTUDIO + ANTE Atelier