architecture : urban : visual culture

More than just a School - Voluntary School in Budakeszi

The institution of the voluntary school is a member of an international chain, operating in Budapest for 23 years, providing educational programs for children worldwide. The intention was to create the best conditions for their special pedagogical program. The Residential Design Department was asked to achieve this aim, led by a Master of the Department. The winning team of the previous student competition was also involved. 

The conception and design process set good examples for both students and locals about cooperation, temperance, environmentally-friendly behaviour, and providing long-term sustainability through many layers.

Living in community

The main ideas of the plan are based on sustainability, since we cannot ignore recent economic and social situations. But we regarded as an important factor not only the physical or technical side of sustainability, but also the social side.

The location of our building is a residential area of a little town, called Budakeszi. In our opinion integration will play a significant role in the connection between the school and its surroundings. This is the basic concept that we emphasize through location, mass formation, consideration of terrain, choice of materials, and respect of the town structure, traditional atmosphere, and the application of typical characteristics of the town. These principles are the first steps of a town-sized progress that makes this suburb area more vivid and liveable.

Functionally the building fits with the special pedagogical program of the school. Since this program is unique, a deep examination was necessary in order to be able to provide the proper conditions. We made questionnaires for the students, teachers and parents to survey real needs, consulted with experts (for example an environmental-psychologist) and also used our personal experiences as we went through the process. As a result, we succeeded to design external and internal places that mean a secure and friendly point for the students of the school. Besides the recognition and development of their creativity and own abilities, in spaces designed by us, they can also experience how to become part of a community. The row of flexible rooms both on the ground-floor and first-floor provide opportunity for organizing various programs, opening the doors of the institution, thus helping the process to become a real part of the town.

Furthermore, we used such solutions in the form of the building that support long term sustainability by minimizing the necessity of mechanical engineering. These tools are rooted in traditional residential building. Instead of using fossil resources, such traditional methods like using the porch as shading, the path and atrium as community space, and the green roof together all subserve the use of natural, renewable resources. These are: natural light, ventilation, shading, temperature-optimizing, rainwater handling, vaporization, insulation layer. Also we can confirm this idea with the usage of renewable and local constructional solutions (wooden beams, and slabs). Thinking about the probable function changes of the inner space, and about increasing the flexibility of the building many of the partition walls are movable, mobile constructions.

The building takes advantage of the slope of the terrain, since it is partly hidden under the ground to be able to assimilate to the scale of the surroundings. The existing local paths can remain and the building integrates itself into the surroundings, creating as little ecological footprint as possible.

The school building's form is simple and compact in consequence of cost-efficiency, economic considerations and practicality. The building mass was disrupted by traditional architectural elements which helped to organize the inner architectural places and also have a certified “smart” technological behaviour in building character:

  • connect the natural and built environment
  • create exciting architectural places
  • illuminate the inner premises
  • create transition zone
  • contribute to familiar scale and friendly environment
  • Provide optimal microclimate in a natural way!

The atrium 10x10m floor plane size works as a suntrap, and helps the natural illumination, and provides an optimal microclimate with its heated surfaces. It is also involved in the passive solar energy utilization and helps the natural ventilation with its moveable window surfaces.
In an operational aspect it’s cost-efficient, environmentally friendly and significantly improves the sense of comfort. As the space of the communal togetherness for all the children and adults of the school, it can be united with other rooms by opening its moveable wall panels in the breaks and the school-events. The atrium makes the interior transparent with persistent visual connection between the different zones and ages.

The natural shading is ensured by the porch. The traditional space of the vernacular architecture is completed with green-wall shading, which provides both the external and internal with an optimum microclimate. As a transition space it is also possible to use it in front of the classrooms; even in changeable weather conditions.

The main attraction of the first floor is the path. This is an adaptation from the local tradition, the structure of the town. It is opened and narrow from the East-West direction, and regarding the North-South axis it is as wide as one raster of the building, and acts like a transition space. This transition space can inspire the pedagogy of the school, and this is its main advantage. The sliced building is able to give natural light and ventilation for the gym and the canteen at the ground floor and for the classrooms at the first floor. It can articulate the mass fitting better into the scale of the surroundings, and assigns the place of the gym. The back and side gardens are approachable through the path. It plays a main role in the life of the building and it has not only a social but also a technological importance, without it our building cannot live.

A perfect school works as a small town. It makes children active and helps their social development with numerous properly-separated, variously-designed places; it gives special experiences and smaller challenges. With these tools the school can be connected to its community. This aspect is essential in this unique school community.

 

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