Spaces to learn. Architecture and Teaching (II) | Raquel Martínez – Alberto Ruiz

Miss Bowls’s class in an unidentified girls’ school,1905 | Source: postcard

The higienismo and the first changes in the educational spaces

We might think that this rather alternative conception of the education and the spaces where it develops it is a relatively modern idea. Though it is true that the most typical examples begin to turn out to be entered well the 20th century, the worry as the conditions in which the pedagogic process develops has his origin more behind. They are the movements hygienists appeared in Europe at the end of the 19th century those who detect, and denounce for the first time the problems of accumulation, health and lighting, common currency in the urban panorama. This situation would worsen for the massive immigration of rural population to the big cities, consequence of the industrialization. The growth of the cities that all this migratory population generated to absorb was realized without any type of control up to the first attempts of urban development arrangement of the widenings. The increase of population produced an unstoppable mass-production of the existing housings and the inevitable degradation of the conditions of room.

The matter was not going unnoticed between the caps most aroused to the company and was coming out of the press, of the political classes and even of the popular language. In this labor of denunciation different sectors took part, fundamentally more directly implied in the medical consequences of the hygienic problems. They were the medical hygienists influenced by the trends of improvement of the public health proceeding from Europe, which more influenced, across studies of social nature.

In any case, the “problem of the housing” since already it was given in calling this circumstance between the public opinion was not limiting itself to the conditions of habitability of private area. Beyond the increasing worry for the housing, the intervention of the States in the conditions of hygiene and health of the public services derived in the normalization of a series of guidelines of functioning from these and, as consequence, in the adoption of a series of designed “ad hoc”. Hospitals, jails, mental hospitals and, in general, the whole series of institutions of social type were reformed or directly developed from zero. Certainly, the educational spaces were turning out to be priority in this development.

New pedagogic trends developed in Central Europe at the end of the 19th century were proposing the personal development of the pupil in parallel with the acquisition of knowledge. There were included artistic, manual topics, development of physical activities and a major contact by the Nature across the classes outdoors. Close to this, the worry developed for the personal hygiene of the pupil and the care for his supply, the redefinition of the school furniture to anticipate diseases directly derived from the conditions in which there were giving the classes and, fundamentally, the application of systematic form of concepts hygienists derived from the correct utilization of the light, the ventilation and the orientation of the educational spaces.

Undoubtedly, all these ideas were raising excessively ambitious concepts for the royal possibilities of application. In few countries it was decided to confront all these reforms of a determined way. Beginning for the own physical location of the new necessary schools, very determined by the increasing urban development speculation and the difficulties of communication of most of the urban cores, the problems of implantation turned out to be unsoluble in most cases. There were, nevertheless, some exceptions to this norm, which they supposed the germ of many of the later developments.

Raquel Martínez and Alberto Ruiz

architects, teachers and investigators

Madrid. march 2014



GARCIA PABLOS, Rodolfo. Construcciones Escolares. Curso organizado por el gobierno español como colaboración al proyecto principal de la UNESCO. Madrid: Dirección General de Enseñanza Primaria, 1962

LANDROVE, Susana, ed. Equipamientos I. Lugares públicos y nuevos programas, 1925-1965. Registro DoCoMoMo Ibérico. Barcelona: Fundación Caja de Arquitectos: Fundación DOCOMOMO ibérico, 2010

BURGOS RUIZ, Francisco. La arquitectura del aula. Nuevas escuelas madrileñas, 1868-1968. Madrid: Ayuntamiento de Madrid. Área de las Artes, 2007

A.C. Documentos de Actividad Contemporánea. nº 9. Primer trimestre de 1933. Barcelona Madrid San Sebastián: G.A.T.E.P.A.C. (Grupo de Arquitectos y Técnicos Españoles para el Progreso de la Arquitectura Contemporánea), 1931-1937

Resources on line:

Stepien y Barno´s blog. La enseñanza según Louis Kahn [on line] April, 2010 [It Consults in July, 2012] Available in web

ALVES GONÇALVES, Polyanna. Herman Hertzberger. Edificios Escolares [on line]. October, 2009, 2010 [It Consults in July, 2012] Available in web

Es Doctor Arquitecto por la ETSAM, compaginando su actividad profesional con la docencia y la investigación en la URJC. Los artículos son un reflejo de la inquietud, reflexión y pensamiento en torno a mi pasión: la arquitectura.

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