Los Cachimanes school, Murcia by Estudio Huma 08.11.11

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Spanish architecture practice Estudio Huma has created a school complex covered in artificial grass on a desert-like site in Spain. The school is intended to be the flagship building for Los Cachimanes, an urban development planned for the outskirts of Torre-Pacheco in Murcia, south-eastern Spain. With no context to inspire the design other than the vast arid plains of the surrounding landscape, Estudio Huma saw the site as the ultimate blank canvas – and an opportunity to build a landmark entirely of its own invention. "We came up with the image of a living organism in desert surroundings," the project architect Eduardo Garcia explains. "We thought the buildings should be like a forest of small green plants."

The school comprises two single-storey linear buildings that follow the perimeter of the V-shaped site, although it appears as if it is made up of several individual volumes, distinguished by the pitch configuration of their roofs. The jaunty gables lend the scheme a kind of Monopoly-house aesthetic.

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Garcia explains that the whole assembly is intended to look random, but have some overall order. "The sharp slopes generate tension and give expression," he says. "They break up the monotony of this endless carpet of artificial grass."

Between the two buildings is a sandy playground with canopied areas of shade, protected by classrooms that look on to it from either side. It is a layout that playfully inverts the college quadrangle format by greening the buildings instead of the central space. A "shoestring budget" and the harsh climate – temperatures in this region can reach 50° Celsius in summer – meant that real grass was ruled out. Garcia says, however, that he found his unusual choice of Astroturf to be "surprisingly durable and easy to install".

The concept of faking nature to create an abstract desert oasis is one that people were slow to warm to. "People did not understand at first," Garcia says. "But over time, people have come to see it as a fun new space for children and a remarkable place that stays in your memory."

 

Image

David Frutos Ruiz

 

Words

Riya Patel

quotes story

We came up with the image of a living organism in desert surroundings. We thought the buildings should be like a forest of small green plants

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