Kindergarten D. José da Costa Nunes
Macau SAR of PRC



The new building of the Dom José da Costa Nursery School stands at the exit to a tunnel, on the edge of one of the most complex crossroads on the east-west axis of the city, and is traversed by a widely-used bypass. Rather than being a hindrance, this created a challenge to the architect, Mário Duque, who, in the written introduction to the project, speaks of the "didactic role" that architecture can and should play...

The main factor determining the solutions found for this project was the disturbing presence of the adjacent bypass. Thus, all the new buildings to the south of this axis orientate the activity in the direction of the Rua da Fonte da Inveja, which has a more moderate circulation and is more favourably oriented in relation to the sun.
The space under the bypass, between the existing building and the new constructions, and corresponding to the old recreation area of the Nursery School, will be treated exclusively as a visual and environmental framing, which will serve not only the urban context but also the interior of the building, namely, the glazed corridor joining the two parts of the school. In other words it won’t be used as an external place of recreation, for obvious security reasons[...]
The adaptability of a functional programme to the activities undertaken in a nursery school cannot be thought through without careful consideration being given to the fact that it is at nursery school that the child might enjoy its first great spatial and motor experiences... The role of architecture could therefore be active to the point of being didactic, furnishing the necessary signs for the establishment of a spatial lexicon which the child learns directly from his or her lived experience. The aim would therefore be to render the space more appealing and adventurous for such a learning process
The structural space should therefore be supportive to children in their social and sensorial learning processes, with the aim of awakening a spatial awareness in the same playful manner as other abilities or aptitudes are awakened.
The apprehension of spatial relations stems from this learning process, with regard to the principle spatial orientations, dimensions and variables: tall/short, long/short, flat/curved, straight/inclined, continuous/broken, light/dark, hot/cold, full/empty, interior/exterior, old/new, object, form and colour all these are variables in a spatial vocabulary.
These were the thoughts and considerations of the architect for the new Nursery School and all of these relate to my own happy memories of the João de Deus Nursery School in Lisbon. There was a bust representing João de Deus already in existence here in the Nursery School of Dom José da Costa Nunes, and this will be given a place of honour on the outside of the building.

— There is an obvious preoccupation with protecting the building from surrounding urban "accidents", and this will eventually determine the final project. Are the children, once indoors, in fact protected from the different types of pollution that affect this area?
With regard to the urban space, the building is indeed a kind of shell, but at the same time, there is no lack of either light or views onto the outside. The polluting effects of the surrounding environment were analyzed, permitting Architecture to solve the equation! In this way, the spaces which are put to greater use are situated in areas where the noise is reduced and where the light is brighter, and these spaces are therefore obviously protected against the noisier, more polluted areas. The windows are shaded or even darkened where the light is too strong, and these windows animate the large white facade in a diversified fashion. The windows are placed low given that the principle users of the building are children and are equipped with devices that allow them to be opened and shut by adults alone, and even then, from a central security command unit. The large window is a small segment of a corridor animated once in a while by people walking past, already in the administrative spaces of the building: passing through these spaces, one is surprised by the glimpse of the Colina da Guia (Guia hill) where the cars flashing by on the bypass seem like toys.

— You must, however, surely be aware of the criticisms levelled at the fact that some of the interiors were incomplete at the beginning of the school year...
From all of the above, it must be obvious that the whole process of construction of this building has been highly complex, although certainly the final synthesis is simple: modern architecture, with its antiseptic vocabulary, is a complex thing. I am also sure that I have not had the opportunity to transmit this to those who use the building, I mean beyond keeping pace with the inspection of the constructions; but it will also be up to the users to recognize this, and to appropriate the space with regard to the conditions offered.
With the beginning of the school year, the temporary installations of two different institutions proved to be disturbing: they demand a kind of flexibility that would require some adaptations which won’t be made because we are, after all, dealing with a temporary situation. The delayed completion of the outdoor recreation areas has made it necessary to house the children temporarily indoors at all times, as well as necessitating the utilisation of the All Purpose Room as a recreation centre for break-time. Being set up for ‘All Purposes’, this room has too many devices, so that it has to be used with some circumspection and not as a free, recreational space.

— What were the aesthetic influences that most marked the conception of this project?
The influences are obviously Neoplastic look for instance at the huge, glazed window facing the bypass in an otherwise blind facade. I do not consider this influence to be either dated or revivalist, but rather, that it provides a structure of functional articulation that ought to exist as an underpinning for any type of plastic vocabulary: I think that the Neoplastic aesthetic was thus articulated because it was, essentially, didactic.

in, Revista Macau Oct 97, II Nr.66


Last updated: 28 Oct 2007


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