The project site is located in the Puerta de Tierra sector of the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The site has panoramic views towards the Atlantic Ocean to the North and the Bay of San Juan to the South. The stereotomic nature of the school allows it to have the appearance of progressive weathering. The weathering is triggered by the tropical climate of the island and the site’s adjacency to the ocean.
The school behaves like a sponge, absorbing the environment [cultural and physical] through the element of time. The design of the school is generated from two complementary but distinct processes: porosity as suggested by the physical analysis of the site and absorption as the didactic experience of filtering knowledge. These two processes inform every instance of the design of the school: its approach, materiality, sequence, scale, light, air and views. It also informs the experience of the user in every space. This is supported through the selection of materials, the shape and scale of every element [windows, doors, openings, details, etc.] in the school.
The filtering occurs at every level. The building re-uses the rain water to maintain the walls wet for the green slime texture keeping the heat controlled from outside. A singular window in a classroom becomes an opening to the outside world. The pattern created by these openings – in walls, roofs, and floors – can be operated by the students for their use in order to manipulate light, air and views. The classroom is a controlled environment where the didactic experience is a focused one. Once outside the classroom the building itself becomes a sponge, filtering the outside towards the inside.
The halls outside the classrooms serve as patios or terraces. Places that encourage encounters with other students, faculty and the community. The walls, roof, and floors in these covered exterior areas serve as projection surfaces where digital images of photographs and texts inform students of mathematical equations, symbols, news and events. These spaces become didactic and entertaining places.
The archetype created by the pattern of opening is a trema disk, a fractal texture constructed through the exhaustive removal of circular pieces. The term refers to the removed pieces. The size of each trema is calculated using an inverted logarithmic scale. If successfully constructed, the trema field will maintain a consistent fractal dimension at any viewing scale. At the same time it provides a porous skin to the school giving it the appearance of a sponge.