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

The evolution of the educational spaces in Spain

The Spanish case is more complicated. The evolution, both social and cultural, of the country it takes a pace different from that of the countries of our environment and few imported initiatives will have to be adapted to our own particular conditions. It splits of an evident social and economic disadvantage in the first years of the century and later; all the innovative offers in pedagogic matter will have to happen for the filter imposed by a denominational condition, in which the Church will monopolize the education, both public and deprived, in all the school levels.

Front page of the number 9 of A.C. 1933 | Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

At the beginning of the year 1933, the AC magazine, periodic publication of the G.A.T.E.P.A.C.1 was dedicating, of monographic form, his number 9 to the problem of the schools. In the moment to publish this number of the magazine, the information of illiteracy in the country was overcoming, according to information of the own magazine, 50 % of the total of the population, approaching in some provinces 70 %. Before this information, the architects of the G.A.T.E.P.A.C. were appearing several questions, which were exhibiting, in an incisive way that they was habitual, in the first page of the publication:

Spain needs to construct 25.000 schools in an immediate term.

It is necessary to construct these schools with the minimal cost.

The construction of a school of luxury (and it is a luxury everything unnecessary), stops without education to a children’s portion. Therefore, the urgency of giving instruction to the major possible number of these, inside the means that the State arranges, forces not to construct schools of this type.

It is necessary to confront the problem of the new school constructions, after studying a plan of set.

Of this plan of set there will work out perfectly certain a series of types and of elements standard, adaptable to the different climates of Spain.

In these types standard only there will be modified the elements that the climate demands. For the creation of them the GATEPAC proposes that he should not forget:

1. That exists a new pedagogic system, consequence of the new concept of the life that comes accenting after the great war;

2. That the primary cell of the school is the class;

3. That exists a problem of orientation in the construction;

4. Other one of lighting and ventilation (air renovation);

5. That must study the heating and sunny of the classes;

6. That the set of all the elements that form the school has to unite in an organic and rational (functional) way;

7. That the terraces, in almost all our country, are of a great usefulness and that the roofs represent always a lost surface;

8. That it is necessary to reject certain prejudices, non-existent already in the anticipated countries. Since they are a) monumentalidad, b) presumptuous fronts, c) arrangement of the plane based on axes that alone exist really on boards of drawing (artful problem, viciousness of the schools of architecture).

The current regulation of schools disables any innovation. The laws, so, have to of be modifying when they are opposed to the rational development of new concepts.2

It turns out to be paradoxical that you upset 80 years ago was necessary to claim conditions of habitability in the schools, which a today have turned into non-negotiable minimums into the design of any public space. But it is true that the premises established as for the school architecture in Spain were far much from these expositions of the young architects of the GATEPAC and were much more in agreement with elitist criteria according to which the education was reserved for a certain social class, and in any case, controlled of almost exclusive form by the catholic Church.

It is not up to the Constitution of 1812 that the Education appears as a question of State. From this moment, the successive governments will begin to raise, in tuning in with the rest of European conditions and the new movements hygienists, a series of reforms destined to provide to the country of the minimal school necessary infrastructure to attack the enormous numbers of illiteracy.

In any case, in the middle of the 19th century, none of the successive attempts of reform of the education had given fruits. Though the practical results of these ideas are slightly consistent, it is true that the new expositions, recounted fundamentally to the hygienic conditions of the classroom, suppose an important base on the one that one will be able to work of progressive form, though slow, in the later years.

As example of the above-mentioned mentality, we can analyze brief one of the projects proposed in the statutory order written by the department of Promotion in 1869 elaborated by the School of Architecture of Madrid and destined to “Public School for both sexes in minor population of 500 souls”.

Plant of the public School for both sexes in minor population of 500 souls | Source: BURGOS RUIZ, Francisco. La arquitectura del aula

Since it is possible to see, the division of the student body is not contemplated by ages, but exclusively by sexes. This division concerns not only the space of classrooms, but the bathrooms, the courts of games and even the accesses and foyers of communication with the classrooms. The ideas of segregation for sexes remove to almost comical ends when we analyze the situation of the drawing-room of the teacher, placed in the middle of the partition of separation of the classrooms, astride between both.

It suits to emphasize that in the body of entry, between the foyers of communication, a new element places: the library, concebida in addition as public accessible space for the local population. Though we cannot stop indicating that the access to this library is realized exclusively across the foyer destined for the children. Almost at the end of the 19th century, the access of the feminine population to the culture was considered to be something almost exotically, not directly reprehensible when.

Beyond the directives marked by the department of Promotion, the latter years of the century propitiated the appearance of initiatives of pedagogic innovation, imported in his great majority of the countries of Central Europe that, except notable cases as the Schools Aguirre, had scanty repercussion in the educational Spanish system, but that used as germ of later models of undoubted importance, as the educational centers created in the Colina de los Chopos, in Madrid.

Between these experimental initiatives there is worth mentioning the School Froebel, based on the ideas of the German pedagogue propellent of the new methods of pre-school education, inaugurated in 1879. In this concrete case we can estimate the first intention of adapting the educational spaces to the pedagogic system. The classroom continues being the center of the educational process but new concepts begin to appear, as the garden designed for his utilization as space of classes in epochs of good time, the gymnasium and even a small zone of gardens for the pupils.

Raquel Martínez and Alberto Ruiz
architects, teachers and investigators
Madrid. may 2014


1 Group of Artists and Technical Spanish for the Progress of the Contemporary Architecture, founded in 1930 like Spanish branch of the CIAM.

2 A.C. Documentos de Actividad Contemporánea. nº 9. Primer trimestre de 1933.



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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