High School in Rafal

Rafal-High-School was addressed in 2007 as a frontal rejection of the speculative urban sprawl that has been responsible for the rapid disappearance of the fertile agricultural land in the area of Vega Baja, transforming it into a landscape dotted with series of cloned houses totally foreign to this place.
Located slap in the middle of this context, the idea behind the High School was to perform the function of an infrastructure with the potential to generate a place protected from its hostile urbanised surroundings. These students needed other points of reference and a space of their own in which they could start to reinvent the world.
However, we were fully conscious that it was impossible to openly confront the tsunami of property development with a user-friendly, unpretentious architecture. Instead the project would have to operate with greater patience and try to project into the future. We needed the active involvement of the carefree teenagers sliding down the pink ramp to the schoolyard every day. Would they be able to hope for something better than the sinister future of semi-detached terrace houses planned for them? Is it really possible to reverse this situation?
At the current moment in time, many of the planned housing estates surrounding the school have not actually been built yet, and so some of the protection mechanisms are still not required. With the passing of time some of the farmers in the area of Rafal are beginning to return the land to its original agricultural use, and small, spontaneous holdings are springing up in this expanse of land zoned for construction, alongside rusting signs for future development now postponed without date.
When walking around this ghost town, IES_Rafal rises like a ship which has run aground in a urbanised desert, waiting for the next tide...
“A suite of small interlinked courtyards creates a complex playing space. As in entering a walled enclosure, the building looks permeable from the interior and opaque from its urban context.
The route becomes infinite: shaded courtyards, covered walkways, terraces at different levels, small peaceful corners… a diversity of sensations succeed each other, multiplying the space.”
The idea of creating an introverted perimeter construction capable of housing a complex interior space has much to do with a protective attitude but is also reinforced by the small dimensions of the plot, leading the heart of the starshaped courtyard to accommodate the sports zone and to partially make the
most of the permitted, while creating a series of concatenated open spaces at different heights to counteract the limitations of the plot. The result is that, when crossing the perimeter shell, the pupils find themselves in a surprising central space where a set of acronyms at different heights help to understand the interior of the school as a single multiform yard extending over the different floors, configuring a great collection of relationship spaces at different heights. A three-dimensional organization chart built from reinforced concrete, where each classroom or workshop occupies a differentiated volume, allows the acronyms to be seen from the entire yard.