The Secondary School Modernization Project was an ambitious program which aimed at requalifying Portugal’s public-school buildings, adapting them so they would meet present-day pedagogic requirements and standards of comfort.

Studio Name: MVCC arquitectos
Design Team: Camilo Cortesão, Mercês Vieira, Hugo Araújo, Miguel Cabral
Area: 11.800 sqm
Year: 2009-2010
Location: Famalicão, Portugal
Client: Parque Escolar E.P.E.
Consultants: Adão da Fonseca – Engenheiros Consultores and Atelier do Beco da Bela Vista
Photography Credits: José Campos

Camilo Castelo Branco Secondary School by MVCC arquitectos - Sheet4
©José Campos

In a country where, in the post-war period, illiteracy rates were astronomical and compulsory education ended at grade school, secondary education was only expanded in the late 1960’s.

Thus, beyond a handful of older secondary schools, most Secondary Schools that exist in the country today were built in the 1970’s, before and after the Revolution of April 25th, 1974. Those schools were based upon prototype-projects, not without interest or formal quality, commissioned by the Ministry of Education. But the locations that were made available for construction and the adaptation of the project to the topography of each place weren’t always the finest. The quality of construction is rudimentary, and the buildings have aged quite badly.

Our intervention was focused on eight schools in the Northern littoral of Portugal, all based on the same prototype-project. Seven of the eight projects we designed were eventually built.

Camilo Castelo Branco Secondary School by MVCC arquitectos - Sheet7
©José Campos

Camilo Castelo Branco school is located on a relatively flat plot. The existing premises include a set of isolated blocks: a main building with a multipurpose hall, canteen, and administrative facilities; two pavilions for classrooms and a large sports hall.

A few small sectors were demolished, the existing pavilions were renovated, and two new buildings were added. The first building hosts the spaces surrounding the multipurpose room, which include a new canteen and the administrative services, and the second building connects the two existing classroom pavilions.

The triple-height atrium connects the classrooms with the public-school functions such as the multifunctional room, library, and amphitheatre, as well as with the teachers’ facilities.

New locker rooms and a new gymnasium are built as an extension to the existing sports pavilion.

Camilo Castelo Branco Secondary School by MVCC arquitectos - Sheet9
©José Campos

The outdoor areas and playgrounds were redesigned and rehabilitated to increase the permeable areas.

The new building fulfils the levels of comfort and sustainability which are expected nowadays, regarding energy, acoustic and accessibility demands.

Ultimately, the main principle of the school is significantly altered; what was once a group of loose pavilions is now a new functional structure which allows new usage approaches and a reopening of the school to the community.

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