Is the Schoolyard needful anymore?
Photo credit: Personal archive.
Caption: School in Jaú by Vilanova Artigas.
Maybe more than ever, the schoolyard as an agora for citizens-to-be is a cru-cial space for our society. Whether by choice or by algorithm, its digital coun-terparts are only creating enclosed ‘bubbles’ and cannot replace spontaneous human interaction. The physical recreation room can offer non-curated hap-penings and meetings within the school society, contributing to possibly more developed feelings of empathy and to the formation of more complex human characters.
One schoolyard I really like is in Jaú, a city in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Very roughly and cheaply built in 1973, this school project by Vilanova Arti-gas has never been published and was probably rejected by the architect him-self. Yet to me it seems even more so essential, as it eliminates the architectur-al fetish of fancy materials or the cliché of school ‘colorfulness’.
A massive umbrella pillar covers an internal courtyard, occupying its center and, as I imagine, becoming the main character, an icon. A generous ramp connects the courtyard to the classrooms above, encouraging everyone to take the same smooth route. The parapet of the classroom walkway is higher than usual, blocking the direct view of the courtyard below – one has to descend, to move, to discover, to hear, to imagine.
In the breaks, the giggles and the whispers invade the whole space, produc-ing liveliness and mystery. Children run around the walkway, the ramp and the pillar tirelessly. Essential interaction – movement, imagination, curiosity obtained by very simple architectonic means in a schoolyard that seems to be fulfilling its social role up to this day.
Laura Cristea is an architect working both in Romania and Switzerland. She studied at UAUIM in Bucharest and graduated in 2016 from The Oslo School of Architecture. The first built work is Inverted House in Hokkaido, Japan, developed together with a team from the same school led by Neven Mikac Fuchs. She worked as a teaching assistant for the studio of Raphael Zuber in Oslo, at EPF Lausanne and at ETH Zurich. She is also a founding partner of Pelinu Books