A School in the Forest
National Concept Design Architectural Competition for the design of an elementary school with gymnasium, Municipality of Neapoli, Agios Pavlos/Sykies, Thessaloniki, Greece.
The building complex consists of two distinct programmatic units, comprising the spaces of the elementary school and of the municipal sports hall. Rather than their explicit contrast, the systematic reciprocity of the above programmatic units constituted an essential design decision. The placement of the central courtyard on top of the sports hall achieved the formulation of a big, open space for the school recess and play. Along these lines, the composition acquired a constituent hub, while the overall open spaces of the school complex are not dissolved into smaller units. At the same time, the two programmatic units merge into one single entity in the two levels of the sports hall, allowing for the uninterrupted circulation of students, visitors, and athletes through a sequence of indoor spaces that cross all the spaces of the building.
The split of the complex into two volumes – L and U shapes – permits the separation of the extended programmatic demands into the very limited surface of the given plot. This split and the consequent rotation of the two shapes achieves their arrangement according to the optimal orientation, while at the same time creates an opening towards the city. This double operation (split/rotation) allows for a choreographed array of plateaus, openings, and passages as “diaphragms” that formulate and filter movements along the open spaces of the school, and its potential linking with the adjacent open-air theatre. This passage widens in its midpoint, located in the centre of the U-shaped volume, and leads to the large, sheltered platform/balcony of the elementary school, which frames the view to the city of Thessaloniki.