Ksaver Šandor Gjalski elementary school annex

Ksaver Šandor Gjalski elementary school upgrade transformation of spatial elements

Elementary School Ksaver Sandor Gjalski is located on the slopes of the Medvednica mountain in Zagreb. The task of this project was to complement the school program with a sports hall, a library and four classrooms. The school building is defined by a small parcel and a lack of exterior space. The terrain itself is heavily sloped, which makes it poorly utilizable. Because of the extreme slope of the terrain, a functional retaining wall in the form of a strong membrane has been built, which, together with the school building, forms two very small back yards. The question arises of how to implement the new program, how to save, activate and program the exterior space; in other words, how to link them together into a single harmonious system.

spatial elements

The project emphasizes the maximum spatial efficiency of the school premises, primarily by manipulating the existing spatial units: the ground, the wall, the atrium and the school building. Each unit is considered to possess an undeveloped spatial and program potential, as an embryo of the new possibilities of the school.

Ksaver Šandor Gjalski elementary school upgrade

The basic idea of this project is to develop the potential of the existing spatial embryos within an active, programmed network. By using this approach, it is possible to transform the vacant land into a network of programmed terraces, the utilitarian wall into a programmed spatial axis, the back yards into atria – safe courtyards functioning as centres of the new school dynamic.

This project aims to achieve not only the default program of the necessary facilities, but also the design its environment in order to achieve a network of possibilities for different range of users – from the general public to closed and specialized school groups, whereby respecting and preserving the existing architecture and environment as much as possible.

The retaining wall which used to serve as a boundary between the school parcel and the surrounding area has been turned into a spatial sign, a caesura, a break between larger spatial units. The default program is embedded into the retaining wall, creating spatial niches which are to be filled with a new program; therefore it becomes a basic spatial, rather than utilitarian element of the new design. A great emphasis has been put on the transformation of the existing vacant plain back yards of minimal proportions into atriums, which now serve as spaces for public use, social interaction and communication. They spread all the way to the hall and the library spaces. The newly established communication between the school building, the spatial niches and the atriums becomes the core of the newly upgraded school building. The network of communication channels connect the school atrium with the surrounding field and together create a new spatial unit. The project attempts to customize the configuration of the terrain to fit the requirements of the school program, in other words, the architecture is integrated into the terrain by rationalizing and activating it. In order to take maximum advantage of the parcel, it has been divided into a series of terraces. They are activated by a variety of programs: a playground, a training ground, a space for outdoor lessons, a small theatre, and as a link with the existing pedestrian communication. The amphitheatrical space that spreads between the library and the sports hall is almost ideal for providing a multifunctional character of a wide program repertoire – from school manifestations to sports awards ceremonies, from film screenings to school concerts. It finishes up the idea of the space – starting from the concept of the ancient Greek amphitheatre and concluding with the "digitally" networked internal and external spaces, which allow communication within the "green" surrounding.

architectural elements

Architectural elements

1. Atrium
- plain back yards are transformed into two atria (the school atrium and the sports atrium)
- the atria are connected to the spatial niches
- the atria link all external and internal school spaces
- the atria are located behind the school, away from the traffic
- the atria turn into open school living rooms
- the sports atrium has a vehicular access, while the library atrium has a pedestrian access

2. Spatial niche
- the two new spatial "niches" are formed by "embedding" the existing retaining wall into the slope
- the niches are spaces that receive and develop a new spatial program
- the niches are connected to the atria

3. Retaining wall
- the retaining wall is the boundary between the school building and the surrounding area
- the retaining wall becomes a programmed spatial axis
- the retaining wall becomes a communication element, a link with the surrounding programs and spaces
- the retaining wall functions as a spatial filter, caesura, a break between larger spatial units

4. Terrain of the parcel
- the architecture is integrated within the the given environment
- the parcel is transformed into a cascade system
- the cascades are used for outdoor school activities
- the parcel is an extension of the surrounding area of the July's Victims Park and St George’s Stairs
- the terrain of the parcel is developed to its fullest potentials

program elements

Program elements

1. Sports hall
- located within the northern spatial niche
- connected with the sports atrium
- uses the Mlinarska Street driveway as a vehicle access for external users
- functions both as a separate program and as part of the school

2. Library and classrooms
- the library and the classrooms are located within the southern spatial niche
- connected with the school atrium
- function both as separate programs and as part of the school
- feature pedestrian access for external users
- each classroom has a direct exit to the external space

3. Exterior space
- the exterior space is defined by a cascade system made of 7 spatial units on different levels
- a playground, a training ground, a space for outdoor lessons, a small theatre, the link to St George’s Stairs, a niche with a view, an access court