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SOCIAL STUDY.

This new school in the suburbs of Santiago is an expressive abstraction of the surrounding topography, providing a series of private and public spaces for both the school and the wider community.

Structured around a series of modest private houses, Mathias Klotz's career draws on the lineage of South American Modernism (particularly the Chilean school that flourished briefly during the 1950s), and the extreme geography of his native country. Informed by abstraction and the presence of nature, his work is characterized by simple geometry, rational use of materials and a wider connection with landscape and place, underpinned by a Corbusian preoccupation with the promenade architecturale. The roof is always an expressive element, forming a fifth elevation, accessible and open to the sky, a place from which to contemplate nature, as, for instance, in the Casa Muller (AR September 1999).

Klotz's latest project is a secondary school for 1400 pupils in the suburbs of Santiago. Framed by mountains, the site is a rectangular plot with a gentle incline along it length. Klotz's response is to incorporate the slope into the parti, so that the building becomes, in effect, an extension of the landscape. Two linear bars containing cellular classrooms and offices are placed along the edges of the site, enclosing a large sloping central space. This modern version of a traditional patio forms an external courtyard open to mountains and sky, which functions as the school's playground. Studded with small circular rooflights set flush with the concrete surface, the sloping plane also forms the roof of the sports hall below, which is partially dug into the site to mitigate its large volume. The roof is supported on a post and beam arrangement of deep steel beams and inclined tubular columns that generate a zigzag rhythm along the perimeter of the sports hall. The glazed end of the sports hall faces the stree t, its lightness and transparency making a welcome gesture of engagement with the public realm, compared with the more hermetic and private side blocks. These are faced in a mixture of vertical strips of pale pine at the upper level and vivid kaleidoscopic cladding panels below, engendering a simple yet expressive textural contrast. The short ends of the blocks are left bare, exposing the raw surface of the concrete structure below. Born of necessity, the entire scheme has a robust materiality, intended to withstand the ravages of rigorous daily use by pupils and the public.

Both the sports hall and its adjoining cafeteria are open to the public, so its treatment as an almost self-contained element, separated from the classrooms is entirely logical. In fact, with its mixture of public and private uses, the building is more like a fragment of city, bisected by a maze of through routes, and climaxed by the great sloping hulk of the runway/playground. Long colonnades run along the edges of the classroom blocks, formed by pulling back the lower floors from the building line, so that zones of shade and circulation are created underneath the overhanging upper floors. Responding to Santiago's intensely hot and dry climate, these informal indoor/outdoor spaces adapt archetypal Mediterranean practice of mediating between interior and exterior domains, through shaded colonnades and patio courtyards.

Threaded along a spinal corridor that runs along the edge of each block, classrooms are simple cellular spaces, with views either out over the central courtyard, or to the surrounding rolling hills beyond. With its monumental ramp, cavernous sports hall and cleft-like alleys and colonnades, the school also seems like an abstraction of terrain, topography tamed and refined, but still endowed with an elemental presence. In particular, the sports hall, is like a great mysterious cave, illuminated by tall glazed walls and the sprinkling of circular rooflights. But it is also practical; its single flexible volume can be adapted for a range of sports and community uses. Klotz's animated and inventive composition of different spaces, materials and functions is ultimately very humanly scaled and responsive to social need, serving both the intimate collective of the school and the wider demands of the local community.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:secondary school in Santiago, Chile
Author:SLESSOR, CATHERINE
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:3CHIL
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:680
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