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

The architectural model of the Free Institution of Education

Previously we have mentioned the influence of the Catholic Church in the educational system. This relation between Church and Education is not properly of influence, but of authentic monopoly in these years. In 1875, one circular letter of the secretary of Promotion he was warning the rectors of university of the need of vigilance

in order that in the establishments that depend on his authority should be taught not opposite at all neither to the catholic dogma nor to the healthy morality”.1

Against this governmental exposition a good number of teachers positioned, that adhirieron in 1876, to a new organization created by  Francisco Giner de los Ríos, the Free Institution of Education. The defense of the freedom of chair and the independence of the education with regard to moral and religious dogmas are the bases of this new academic community that, until the beginning of the Civil war, turned into the riverbed of introduction of the new pedagogic theories into Spain.

The introduction of new concepts on the part of the ILE was making necessary the conception of new educational spaces. The elimination of the segregation by sexes, the education aconfesional and the conception of the education like an active process removed from the traditional expositions in which the teacher was conceived as a mere transmitter of information, is translated in new projects of school centers, as the promoted one – though not constructed – in the Walk of the Castilian one, in the current location of the High school of the Army. This school would possess workshops, gymnasium, special classrooms destined for laboratory, drawing, music, besides free landscaped spaces that were following the concepts of the system Froebel.

The influence of the ILE was growing as some of his more illustrious pupils were joining to the political and intellectual Spanish life. The importance of the institution became particularly clear by the arrival of the Republic II and his political identification by this one supposed his dismantlement after the end of the Civil war. The regime of the General Franco considered the ILE to be a subversive, opposite organism to ideal religious and moral that should be imposed in Spain and proceeded to his dissolution and confiscation of his goods. The great majority of the members of the Institution had to go into exile or to face the censorship.

In any case, in the years previous to his disappearance, you change of the promoted initiatives directly or indirectly for the ILE they crystallized in the creation of some of the most important pedagogic institutions of the first years of the 20th century. This creation came, in addition, accompanied from the construction of new educational infrastructures. The Meeting extension of Studies (1907), the Students’ Residence (1910) or the Institute School (1918) they established themselves of definitive form in a series of buildings constructed in a magnificent enclave of Madrid, known as the Colina de los Chopos.

Centring on the buildings of purely educational use, we can emphasize both realized ones for two young architects, Carlos Arniches and Martin Domínguez, the Institute of Secondary and the Pavilion of Preschoolers. Both buildings, close to the Audience and Library for the Students’ Residence, transformed some years later for Michael Fisac in the current Church of the Holy Spirit, turned into the determined bet of still balbuceante architecture of Spanish forefront for a new model of educational space, based on those concepts claimed by the GATEPAC – orientation, lighting, ventilation.

Arniches and Domínguez obtained, in addition, with the work of the Pavilion of Preschoolers, an innovative building, incorporating new elements, as the lighting of the corridor of access to the classrooms by means of a large window placed in cover that was complementing the great glazed front of these; the integration of the space of traffic to the classrooms by means of mobile panels, and the great finding designed in collaboration with Eduardo Torroja, of the marquees demolished of reinforced concrete. These marquees turned into the image most typical of the building simultaneously that were working as zone of rest of the children sheltered by the rain or the Sun.

Pavilion of Preschoolers of the Institute School. Madrid. Arq. Arniches and Dominguez. 1933-1936 | Sources: Flickr and El Blog de Stepien y Barno.

This out-standing school set had a short tour, since his restructuring later to the Civil war, under the patronages of the Opus Dei, ended for modifying of deep form, not alone his educational ideology but also, and of radical form, the constitution of his buildings.

Once begun the war, and since it is in the habit of being habitual in this type of situations, the education turned into propaganda. The ideological load became more radical so much in a decree as in other one, and initiatives like the offer as the ILE stopped having arrangement between the immediate interests of both governments. Even more when, once perfect the victory of the pro-Franco decree, the priorities centred on eliminating any rest of the previous situation. For it one proceeded, with urgent character, to the dismantlement of the educational structures introduced by the Republic, to the transformation of the organisms and already based institutions – the Institute School turned into the Ramiro de Maeztu and newly created CSIC substituted the Meeting extension of Studies – and, especially, the purification for political reasons of the majority of the teachers’ body of school.

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


1 Mentioned by Francisco Burgos in La Arquitectura del Aula



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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