Imagine a school based on human values, motivation and critical thinking with exchanges abroad. Such was Instituto-Escuela in 1930, a revolutionary education institution inspired by the latest educational trends from Germany and the Netherlands and one of the most modern schools in Europe at that time.
As many would expect, Instituto Escuela did not outlast the outcome of the Spanish Civil War, but the buildings designed by rationalist architects Arniches and Domingez did. Most of them were incorporated into the huge Ramiro de Maeztu school, one of the main public schools in Madrid. I spent some good years in primary school there, attending one of the remaining original pavilions designed in 1933. Light, air and space dominated each classroom, each of which had a garden and its own toilet facilities.
This groundbreaking building must be seen in a context: until a few years before, school building regulations allowed for few pupil centric design principles, focusing mainly on the form – axis distribution, ornament and roofs instead of on functional principles. Even in sunny Spain, terraces were not allowed in school buildings.
Unfortunately, the section I attended along with the rest of the school has been severely modified without much respect to the original design. I hope one day this school will be another one of the many good examples of outstanding conservation and restoration in Spain.