Mayfair Academy

Architects: Gabriel Verd + Buró4
Collaborators: Estudio Duarte Asociados SLP (Structures), Suringeniería (Installation Systems), Marta Puig de la Bellacasa (Landscape designer), Construcciones Cabello (Main contractor)
Year: 2017 (project), 2020 (under construction)
Built area: 2.308 sqm over ground + 890 sqm underground

Mayfair International Academy is an international private school located between San Pedro de Alcántara and Estepona.

After a generational change in the direction of the Centre and twenty years after its foundation, Mayfair International Academy looks for another location to develop its new teaching project.

The facilities, that were occupied since then, are now obsolete. It is an old guest pavilion which belongs to a nearby hotel (Atalaya Park) that was adapted in the 90s to host this school. The “domestic” character that this building emanates, the close and direct treatment that people in charge of the institution provide to families, does not encourage us to consider it as a school.

This Academy is one of the smallest international schools of the Costa del Sol that offers a British education to children from 3 to 18 years old. They are small by choice. They have small classrooms of no more than 16 students per class, so they can design more bespoke programs, each student is recognized and cared for as an individual. The student body is a particular micro cosmos of the society of the Costa del Sol, it is composed by more than 25 nationalities allowing them to enjoy a diverse school society where they learn about different cultures, while developing important cognitive and emotional skills. The Cambridge program, offered through Primary, Secondary and high school, encourages students to build more than an in-depth understanding of the subjects; it encourages them to play an active role in the classroom.

The plot on which we want to implement the new center is located near the original one, it offers all the necessary services and excellent communications that will allow speedy arrival of school buses. Its area is 5,000 m2, lower than the teaching standards in relation to the built volume, and a difference in height of 4 meters. Comment upon the privileged situation on the corner, without adjoining buildings and next to a stream. This stream is configured as a riverside park, a large wooded strip that will enrich the landscape of the new center.
The free spaces of the plot are organized in two levels, taking advantage of the topography of the place, it is the building itself that absorbs the unevenness. In the highest level, there is the access and playgrounds for kindergarten and primary school, with the lower bound for secondary and high school.

The compact image of the building has been designed with a double intention, on the one hand, to free the maximum plot area and dedicate it to recreational activities and sports and, on the other hand, to enhance its institutional and corporate image, facilitating its recognition from its immediate environment.

This uniform configuration in the volume is in line with the idea that Mayfair has of the educational community, a large united family that coexists integrated and not segmented into independent areas. Only the level of kindergarten has been configured as an annex, given the special conditions of organization they require.

The building is proposed in 3 differentiated programmatic levels:

  1. The level of access, which is marked on the North side by Casarabonela street, is the intermediate level of the building. There is the administrative and management area, as well as the kindergarten’s pavilion. The latter gives independent access to the rest of the Academy to facilitate the arrival and collection of the youngest, as well as a small waiting area that avoids the crowds of relatives.
    The children’s classrooms have been designed as a flexible space with a multitude of configuration options in which there is a common element to all of them: light. They are very bright classrooms in which natural light becomes the true protagonist of the space. Alongside the kindergarten’s classrooms, in the common areas, a scenic space has been designed to make the teaching formulas more flexible. This develops with a free and spacious area attached to the distribution gallery at the bottom of a grandstand that works as an amphitheater. In this area the space flows in all directions, inviting to create a space for reunion and meeting inside the school. From the same level, it can be seen the indoor sports hall that is located on a lower level. It is a space of great prominence in the academy that serves as the background-landscape of the directing corridor. A gallery located on this level will allow you to enjoy the events that take place from a higher position.
  2. At the upper level the rest of the teaching program is developed, separated by the stairs, there is on one side the primary school and on the other side, the levels of secondary and high school; on each level, a different activity takes place: music classrooms, computer workshops, laboratories, etc. We follow the same marked direction to reach the kindergarten’s classrooms guided by the use of overhead light, but we give the teaching space a more sober and mature character. (This aspect is reflected in a change of color also on the floor). In the corridors, touches of color are introduced into the window frame, favoring the immediate recognition of the classrooms and creating a chromatic sequence that accompanies the student.
  3. The lower level, which is developed below ground level, is where the rest of the uses associated with the academy are implemented: the dining room, stores, facilities and garage, the dance classroom highlighting the sports hall on all of them. The sports pavilion has been designed as a multifunctional area where not only sports activities will be developed but also it will be used as a concert hall, theater, etc. It is an area that could be used as a covered patio in case of rain. It also has direct access to the lower patio, located at the same level, keeping visual references with the main lobby and upper playground (through the perimeter terrace).
    This game of looks is possible thanks to the constant permeability offered by the building. A visual lightness that is opposed to the apparent monolithism of its implantation.