By Savitha Hira
Photography: Julio Barreno Gutierrez
Applying the basic tenets of origami, Ar. Julio Barreno Gutierrez infuses colour and fun into a functionally requisite shelter in Spain...
Designing for children brings on an excitement; the architect flips through childlike imagery, seeing the world through the eyes of the youngsters. Ar. Julio Barreno Gutierrez found his inspiration in the art of origami, when he was asked to design and build a canopy for a school playground, sheltering the children from the elements during their everyday periodic breaks.
Located in Algodonales, a small scenic village in Sierra de Cadiz in the south of Spain, its landscape abounding with pristine whitewashed houses and their Arab-tiled sloping roofs, set amid olive groves and fruit and vegetable fields; Principe de Asturias is a school with a modern but uninteresting building and two playgrounds. Attempting to rejuvenate the school environment, Ar. Julio resorted to breathe life into the nondescript school playground using brightly coloured sheet steel – infusing the environs with colour and fun.
Connecting the two playgrounds, which were at different levels – one to the north and the other to the west - he has designed a structurally strong one-centimetre thick sheet steel canopy that visually mimics folds of paper. By painting the canopy in vivid pink and blue colours; different colours on both sides, the architect tries to draw one’s attention away from the gravitational property of typical steel construction and approach the project with a focus on the properties of paper instead; i.e. low weight and thickness.
So we have the canopy unfolding like a large linearly spread-out tent, anchored to the ground via the pointed edges of its triangular folds that taper at random intervals to give the canopy its form. Its form is its strength; as it creates an element of intrigue for the children, presenting them with vividness and a playful form day-after-day.
The architect succeeds in underlining the basic principles of origami in architecture and creating a child-friendly fun element that can withstand the test of time, while it will continue to regale generation after generation.