Escola Pia Balmes primary school reform

Promoter: Escola Pia de Catalunya

Area: 6.366 m2 (phase 3 690 m2 )

Location: c/ Balmes 208, Barcelona

Budget: Phase 3 393.000 €

Date: September 2018

Reform and adaptation of the Primary Education area of the Escola Pia Balmes, at 208 Balmes Street in Barcelona.

For the attention of Joan Vila, director of Escola Pia Balmes.
Barcelona, January 28, 2019

Dear Joan,

I wanted to share with you the decision we have made in the office (with your permission) to present, this year, the third floor works of the Escola Pía Balmes, to the FAD Awards.

After three consecutive years of works, where we have been jointly polishing the architectural project of the center, we have the feeling that the teaching project, the result of this transformation, has also begun to take shape and has its own discourse. This discourse, which will be the story that we will explain in the awards, is, in essence, the construction of a permeable limit between the spaces that, in a classical way, have been associated with teaching (the classrooms), and the spaces of passage or circulation without no other duties assigned.

This permeable, osmotic wall we like to call it, allows both teachers and students to DISCOVER the exterior spaces of the classroom through transparency and APPROPRIATE them opportunely due to proximity. This piece of furniture QUALIFIES the spaces it runs through, since it has the THICKNESS of the space occupied by the supporting structure of the building, which allows these spaces to be PROVIDED with new teaching support content with a display of lockers, cabinets, shelves, cork panels to display works, benches to sit on…

As you well know, it has been a challenge to work with such a tight budget and in just the two summer months. The strategy of modulating the space between pillars of the structure with wood, looking for a multiple for a repetitive module, combining it with the minimum unit of the Kallax wardrobe from Ikea as accessories to make the lockers, has allowed us to reach the budget. This also ensures very economical maintenance, being able to replace any piece of prefabricated furniture easily if necessary.

The decision to atomize the dining room that occupies the entire sixth floor into open multipurpose classrooms/dining rooms on each floor has helped give corpus and critical mass to these circulation spaces, ambiguous but full of nuances. Before, the dining room was used only two hours a day while now, it can be used for other activities, allowing, in turn, to complete the lost horizontal circulation around the central patio. For us it is a great satisfaction to know that you are modifying teaching activities in many aspects. We have learned that you have introduced dance as a transversal subject of corporal expression in the new classroom-dining room, and that the works of your educational project SUMMEM are being presented there by the students and exhibited in these new circulation spaces. It is encouraging, the positive contamination of enthusiasm that the project has awakened in the entire educational community, children, teachers, fathers and mothers. One day I asked a boy who was sitting on one of the benches if the other boys used them a lot. He nodded and told me: “We don’t mind being punished in the hallway anymore, because then we can sit on the couches and read stories.”

Kind regards

Manuel Sánchez-Villanueva Beuter