The invitation to submit a proposal for the design of a new school complex was a challenge to this firm. The people working in this firm belief in the importance of education when it comes to the creation of a fair and just society, building strong communities and developing a knowledge-based economy. Education is the key ingredient when it comes to the eradication of inequality in this country. Education helps people release their potential as students and later on as professionals. Thus, the design of a new school complex must take into consideration not only the environmental factors but also the needs of the students and faculty as well.
Aside from the lofty goals of creating a new design to enhance education, the specific reasons to implement change also stem from the new curriculum implemented this school year. At the same time, there is strong competition between private schools in Athens. The new school complex must display not only a well-conceptualized design but also one that is sustainable, flexible and adaptable to the various needs of the students and faculty.
The design is not entirely dependent on the needs and wants of the users. It is also dictated by new urban planning laws. Thus, a major component of the design is to create a new building that will serve as a hub between the residential and commercial buildings as well as the recreational and sporting facilities. However, the core principle of the design is rooted in the concept of sustainability and energy efficiency. In other words, it is a “green” project that aims to reduce carbon footprint and the use of fossil fuels that harm the environment (Lakin & Patefield 10).
As a result, the microclimate of the interior spaces such as ventilation, lighting, and humidity must be a part of the overall design. This mindset is reflected in the drawings in the basic plans as well as the details related to the elevations. In addition, an alternative energy source must be incorporated into the design. At the moment the most practical alternative energy source is solar power (Gordon 15). A series of solar power cells can easily blend into the overall design. The same thing cannot be said if the firm decides to use wind turbines. Thus, the school can help mitigate the impact of climate change without compromising on aesthetics.
The facade is the most important element of the school building. The morphology and the architecture of the building are dependent on the design element existing in the north and south elevations of the two wings. These two wings will exhibit grids with climbing plants. The green elevations will provide a solar shading system, a microclimate in the interior spaces and a contemporary facade that changes four times a year depending on the season.
During autumn the leaves change their color from September to November. Thus, the colour of the elevation changes from green to orange yellow. But during wintertime, the plants shed off the leaves. As a result, more light can penetrate the building. Therefore, during the cold months, with lesser sunlight, the building does not require more energy for lighting purposes. This is made possible through a design consideration that allows for natural light to supplement the artificial lighting inside the said structure.
After winter comes spring and then summer. In this period the plants are able to regenerate the fallen leaves. At the same time, the plants begin to produce flowers. The effect of the change does not only enhance the beauty of the building but also provides an environment that is a feast for the eyes. The students will surely appreciate the display of natural beauty. In addition, the robust growth of the plants during the summer season also provides natural shade for the interior of the building. Therefore, there is no need to increase electrical output to power the air-conditioning equipment to keep the interior cool and comfortable.
The layout of the building is based on the requirements specifically highlighted by the clients. They pointed out that there is a reason why certain facilities are constructed close proximity to each other. For instance, the classrooms for music and arts are located next to the Amphitheatre. On the other hand, the Administrator’s office is located on the ground floor at the center of the building. However, the library can be easily accessible from different areas of the school building.
For safety reasons, the construction will be in two stages. The first stage of the construction process includes the Amphitheatre as well as half of both the north and south wing of the building. The second stage of the construction process completes the formation of the rest of the facilities (see Diagram #5). The two-stage construction process will assure the clients that the firm will not cut corners in order to put together the different design elements and create a school building that will work as one undivided unit.
Location and Orientation
The location and the volumes of the building are based on the design of two axes. Axis B is related to the location of the existing school and it creates a visual connection with it. Axis A on the other hand divides the site into a north-south orientation. Axis B was designed to create an interior courtyard where extra-curricular activities can take place. At the same time, there is an interconnection between the classrooms, the courtyard and the other facilities and the rest of the open spaces.
The interior courtyard is created by the two axes and it is located between the two volumes. The two volumes are connected with two platforms. There is a relationship between the open spaces and the courtyard. For instance, the 280 seating capacity of the Amphitheatre building was incorporated into the interior courtyard for two reasons. First of all, the roof of the Amphitheatre is green and it can easily blend into the courtyard’s landscape. Secondly, there is space sharing between the Amphitheatre and the courtyard. Thus, the Amphitheatre does not eat up more space, allowing for more efficient use of the resources available to the students and faculty.
The Amphitheatre has another entrance on Kontogianni Street and it will be accessible for the students, faculty and the general public. As a consequence, the boundaries between the school and the outside world are less defined. Thus, a significant portion of the school is open to the public. It creates a natural flow that is not restricted by artificial controls.
The two wings of the school building are connected by two large platforms. These two platforms also accommodate the LRC and the Cafeteria on the first floors. At the same time, the platforms create semi-open spaces which protect the students during rainy days. On the east side of the courtyard, there is a basketball court.
The students and faculty can access the school building in two ways. They can access it through the north and south side of the building. On the east and west side of the building, where the residential buildings are located, there is an entrance and exit for the car parking facility. It is also on the west side of the building where one can find the entrance to the Amphitheatre.
In front of the Amphitheatre, there is a landscaped square that is 1.8 meters below the ground floor level. The purpose of this design is to create a beautiful way to welcome visitors to the Amphitheatre. The south side of the school building on the other hand is used for the cantina and cafeteria. It is the entrance for supplies, vehicles and personnel that work in the cafeteria and cantina.
There is a portion of the north side of the building that serves as a parking facility for visitors. For students that enter the school premises in their vehicles, the north and south sides of the building can be used for students’ embarkation and disembarkation. Accessibility within the building is enhanced by the design of two corridors on the two wings of the buildings. Enhanced accessibility is made possible through the construction of eight staircases.
Social and Recreational spaces
The social and recreational spaces are important parts of the school building. These can be used for meetings, eating and socializing for students, faculty, staff and the community. They are sometimes defined as non-learning spaces. Nevertheless, the design considers the radical transformation of the educational system with the advent of new technologies. There will also be external recreational spaces.
Recreational spaces encourage students to spend more time in school. Recreational spaces also enhance the morale of both students and faculty. It also allows for a more flexible working pattern. Recreational spaces also support students with special needs. At the same time, the newly designed school complex encourages greater interaction with the community.
Gordon, Jeffrey. Solar Energy: The State of the Art. London: James & James Ltd., 2001. Print.
Lakin, Susanne and Patefield, John. Essential Science. Oxford: Nelson Thomes Ltd., 1998. Print.