architecture development

Building of the Week: Itahye School

This week I was at the Ecobuild exhibition in London for their discussion of the Sustainable Development Goals, and to scout for stories. I was also investigating vertical growing and urban gardening for some local projects, and generally taking a day off from the book to indulge my curiosity.

One the highlights for me was catching the ZEDfactory stand at an unusually quiet moment, and having a chance to chat with Brazilian architect Gilles Alvarenga. There are always inspiring projects on the go at ZEDfactory (and one of their ZedPods had been built in the hall), but the one that caught my eye was a school in Brazil. And since I had the architect there to enthuse about it, I’m going to break my normal rule on writing about completed buildings and tell you about it.

Itahye is an area on the edge of Sao Paulo that is due to be developed as the city grows, and Zed Factory are working on the plans for the whole area. As the area is hilly and forested, the idea is for a series of interconnected villages, and to try and protect as much of the natural environment as possible in between.

The school for the area has been designed with this ethic in mind, and it is something of a cross between a school and a park. Rather than cluster all the classrooms in a block, the school is scattered across different levels on a steep hillside. Students will move through growing spaces and food gardens as they navigate the school, blending the indoors and outdoors.

The buildings themselves are oriented for natural light and designed for natural ventilation. Green roofs are used extensively, except where there are solar panels. A larger solar array forms the roof of the sports hall and administrative buildings. The school would incorporate gardening into its curriculum, with children playing an active role in growing and preparing the food they eat.

As the school sprawls across the site, there are covered walkways in case it rains. Since it’s on a steep slope, there are also slides everywhere for getting around:

Itahye School likes an extraordinary place to get an education, and the whole development looks very impressive. It’s also great to see ZEDfactory working on such a large canvas. I’m not aware of any projects of this size in Britain, but there has been a lot of interest from Brazil and China. This is zero carbon development at large scale, and it’s the kind of thing that we need to be seeing everywhere in the coming decades.

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