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Justified Architecture in a Landscape of Transformation

Competition Finalist and Founders Award for: 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom

Justified Architecture in a Landscape of Transformation

The Site:

Ciudad Bolívar: The locality Ciudad Bolívar situated in the southwest of Bogotá has the lowest socioeconomic indices and “quality of life” conditions in the city, 51% of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day and the highest number of people displaced through Colombia’s internal conflict are found there.

The project’s impact on neighborhood residents: The Corporación Educativa y Social Waldorf (Waldorf Educational and Social Corporation) is a local NGO that provides educational opportunities to 200 children and youth, free of charge, and through its work benefits approximately 600 people represented by the students’ families, of whom 97% are classified in the lowest socioeconomic index.

Because of the efforts of the Waldorf Educational and Social Corporation children between the ages one and three (68 students) have access to preschool education and proper nutrition while children between six and fifteen (145 students) have access to an after-school program based on Waldorf pedagogy. Using art, music, weaving and dance workshops students are encouraged to develop knowledge through sensorial experience.

Design Process

Not withstanding the important work the school achieves, the physical infrastructure lacks the spatial attributes necessary to fully realize its aims. For this reason we partnered with the school to improve the spatial characteristics of the school, which in turn will enhance the quality of the education provided.
Participatory process:

The experience of the building: Workshops with community members and teachers allowed for a better understanding of how they experienced the building through three different perspectives: its spatiality, functionality and meaning. After they became aware of their physical environment, architects and community members, in a collective learning process, identified the key elements that influence architectural space, such as light, proportion, scale, use, circulation, etc.

Expectations: Once the group realized the power architecture has to transform a specific environment, community members expressed their expectations and priorities for proposed interventions and what the classroom of the future should look like.

Criteria for Intervention

The classroom of the future:
Recognizing that information technology is an important aspect of contemporary learning, what is most transcendent of an educational process is its pedagogy. The classroom of the future should educate for individual freedom and civic life. Therefore, architecture should be the interface that allows encounters between society and education; thus, the classroom should not be considered in isolation, but as part of a larger organism: the city.

Functionality: The architectural development of the classroom of the future has a positive influence on the quality of the education children receive, and should foster creativity.

Terrace classroom: The intervention requires that the use of the generally small areas is maximized, thus we propose a usable terrace as an open-air classroom that permits a flexible space adaptable to different teaching needs.

Landscapes of encounter and communication: Every circulation path is a possible encounter to foster knowledge; the classroom should not only function autonomously, but also join the rest of the school through open and functional circulation.

Box of Light: Due to the existing conditions it is beneficial to open an illuminating space that improves the quality of light in the complex and creates a visual and physical meeting space integrating the terrace and circulation paths.

Façade-window-furniture: Considering space limitations, we propose an enclosure adapted to the needs of the classrooms. Thus a horizontal band freely surrounds the classroom, acting as bench, storage space and illumination.


The school is a community building, open to the public it is a place where people are presented with students’ work and progress. Its spatial structure, however, is introverted and enclosed.

Roof - Landscape - Glass boxes: In a context of socio-economic marginality, the classroom of the future should foster a realization of the importance of education to overcome poverty. Therefore, spaces are transparent and light, showing their interior richness. The terrace, in turn, is exposed to the neighborhood and the city with open views, as a sign of hope for the future.

An auditorium and amphitheater: The small, existing auditorium will be transformed into a flexible space connected to the public sphere in the open-air where the larger community can fully participate.
Landscaping: Nature is the experiential element though which knowledge and respect for the environment are strengthened. The classroom of the future knows no limits.

The created landscape: The roof serves also as a green space where observation of and contact with nature are possible. A garden will be planted there for children to discover and nurture life, and also to obtain food for their own nutritional benefit.


Reforestation and ecosystem conservation: The proposal recovers the local landscape though reforestation of native species and the creation of natural wind barriers in the highest part of the terrain to stem erosion.

Rainwater collection and use: Rainwater will be collected from the hillside and roofs, sent through a “flow-form” system, and used for watering the gardens and surrounding vegetation.

Permeable paving: A cover of permeable paving will be used on exterior spaces to allow proper breathing of the earth and the correct functioning of the top-soil.

Landscape in process: The intervention respects geographical and natural conditions of the surrounding environment. It is a gradual process that weaves into the existing environment and insinuates the incremental construction and ownership of the school, the neighborhood, and the city.

Lightweight Structure: To minimize the environmental impacts of the project, the proposal is based on an easily assembled wood structure. The correct use and good quality of the wood will bring back value to a material negatively associated with low income construction, but of great performance and low cost.

Natural materials:

Waldorf pedagogy aims at the contact with natural materials for the development of a child’s sensibility. The following are proposed:

Wood: For circulation areas and terrace, as a soft and warm surface that preserves temperature and can be easily obtained from local mills.

Earth: Ecological bricks will be used for the public spaces and the garden beds.

Stone: Applied in public space, reducing the use of concrete and brick, though commonly used in the area are expensive to buy and maintain.

Plywood panel enclosures: An easily found material made of recycled wood, such as plywood, is used to reduce construction costs and facilitate the building process by the students and their families themselves.

The Design Team:

The team (from Colombia, Austria and the United States) worked jointly with teachers and students at the school through a series of participatory workshops. Arriving at the fundamental premise that architecture should be the interface that allows encounters between society and education the project team developed a series of responses to enhancing the existing constructed space, connecting the built form to the surrounding environment and a design for the Classroom of the Future.


Sierra Morena Transversal 73H Bis, No. 75B-46 Sur
Bogotá, Bogota D.C.


Competition Category Entered

Competition Details

  • Name: 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: May 4, 2009
  • Submission Deadline: June 1, 2009
  • Entry Fee: $25 USD Developed Nations , $0 USD Developing Nations
  • Award: $50,000 for the winning school for classroom construction and upgrading, and $5,000 stipend for the design team.
  • Contact: Sandhya
  • Status: Winners Announced

The competition entry ID for this project is 4672.

Project Details

NAME: Justified Architecture in a Landscape of Transformation
LOCATION: Sierra Morena, Bogotá, Bogota D.C., Colombia
START DATE: January 27, 2009
CURRENT PHASE: Schematic Design
SIZE: 220 sq. m
PROJECT TYPE: Education Facility - Primary School
, Architecture for Humanity

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