secondary school, vilafranca del penedès
The secondary school is situated in the newly created residential district of La Girada, still in the construction phase. The district is mostly made up of freestanding rectangular units or tower blocks, with some small areas of row housing.
The rectangular site is situated between Avinguda d'Europa, where the entrance is located, and the railway line. The adjacent site is occupied by an infants’ and primary school, and the point of contact between the two marks the end of the Rambla de la Generalitat, one of the two axes that cross to form the matrix of the new district.
The topography of the site seems more like the result of importing earth from elsewhere than natural terrain. Most of its front overlooking Avinguda d’Europa is at a level of 208 m, rising gradually as it nears the BV-2119 road. At this point, the land continues to rise to a peak at 215 m, where a bridge across the railway line connects it with the neighbourhood on the other side. On the side overlooking the railway track, the level of land ranges between heights of 212 and 215 m, though significant changes are envisaged in the near future.
Two basic factors go to define the general layout of this new secondary school for Vilafranca del Penedès: its position at the end of the “urban salon” that is the Rambla de la Generalitat and its proximity to the railway line used by high-speed trains. Added to these are other conditioning factors, such as the site’s limited surface area, its long, straight-lined geometry and the particular topography created by earth brought here from other construction sites.
These conditioning factors favoured the construction of a compact building that optimizes the available land and responds to the urban and environmental conditioning factors of the setting. Accordingly, the complex provides two functions: an education facility aligned with Avinguda d’Europa and a series of spaces that can be used by a broader public marking the end of the Rambla de la Generalitat.
The entrance is situated in front of this axis, with its sports courts to the right, against the boundary of the neighbouring school for younger children. The series of spaces for public use is situated to the left of the school. A double porch leads either to the outdoor space interrelating all the buildings or directly to the school building. The main part of the playground is at the back of the school, between it and the railway line.
The school building is laid out in a comb shape, with the offices and classrooms occupying the “teeth”, which are joined by communal and service spaces. These spaces are arranged on the street side, and the classrooms overlook the playground. The ground floor is given over to offices and some communal classrooms. The first floor houses baccalaureate classrooms and shared spaces, and the second floor is for compulsory secondary education.
As a three-stream school, the complex has three storeys and three modules for offices and classrooms. The school can extend its capacity by the simple addition of a module; as well as being a simple procedure, this protects the school’s general characteristics.
The other building in the complex, housing spaces for occasional use by people other than the school’s pupils, has two levels coinciding with the first two storeys of the education building: a ground floor with cafeteria and changing rooms and a first floor with the large hall-cum-gymnasium.
The strip between the two constructions serves to interrelate the outdoor spaces for pupils to use at break times: one near the entrance on Avinguda d’Europa, beside the sports courts, and one on a level with the building’s first floor, between the classrooms and the railway line. It also serves to facilitate evacuation in the event of fire and promote social relations outside class hours. It takes the form of a series of walkways at the level of each floor of the building which are connected by steps leading to the playground and a ramp incorporated into the service building, providing access for people with reduced mobility. This element provides sheltered interrelation between the various parts of the programme and provides a porch for the entire complex.