by Jincy IypeApr 03, 2023
Building with reused shipping containers is a method that has firmly cemented itself as an efficient, convenient, and somewhat eco-friendly means to provide shelter and housing in recent years. The trend, sometimes referred to as 'cargotecture', has been at the forefront of upcycled design and adaptive reuse architecture for some years now, and rampant innovation in the use of this flexible building block has seen the scope of its utilisation extend far beyond what we once knew. Structures such as mid-rise social housing projects, offices, private residences, or even large sporting venues such as Stadium 974 in Qatar, are now tangible realities in the domain of shipping container architecture. Located 30 kilometres west of Spain’s capital, Madrid, 'Educan' - described as a 'school for dogs, humans, and other species', takes this construction medium into the new typologies of educational and institutional architecture, with a vividly colourful design meant to excite and spark a desire for exploration.
Designed by Spanish architects Enrique Espinosa, Director of Eeestudio, and Lys Villalba, Co-Founder of Zoohaus collective, ‘Educan’ caters to species of all sizes and persuasions, primarily functioning as a training centre. The duo was prompted to undertake the project as an experiment to recover the biodiversity and ecosystem quality of a once rural agricultural area that has now been overtaken by the ills of urban development and pesticide-heavy cultivation. Featuring a trapezoidal layout enclosed in a hybrid envelope composed of green shipping container sections and in-situ concrete exhibiting the same rippling corrugation seen in the containers themselves.
Hosting a 50 sqm classroom, a 200 sqm training space, along with a kitchen and bathrooms, the complex has been described by the architects as a ‘multi-species design'. Under this archetype, the spaces on the ground are mainly dedicated to pairs of dogs and humans practising agility training exercises or games as small birds and bats nest in the upper nooks of the structure, as well as the lettering on the front façade design. As shared by the architects in an official statement, “Non-humans are at the centre of the design. The floors, usually designed for people and their shoes, are adapted to the pads and joints of canine paws: the training classrooms use removable rolls of PTE-based synthetic turf approved for canine training, while theory classrooms are finished in a semi-polished, exposed concrete aggregate made from river pebbles.”
Educan was assembled using a diverse assortment of materials and construction techniques ranging from standardised 40 ft HC containers to handcrafted custom ironwork joints, and CNC cut laminated timber joints. The architects complemented the adaptability and lightweight properties of the shipping containers with the thermal mass of the undulating cast in-situ concrete architecture, augmented by both mechanical and passive climate control methods - the latter consisting of perforated shutters, large sliding doors, and roller blinds. This has resulted in an expressive ensemble of colour and texture, replete with rhythmic corrugation and diamond-patterned surfaces.
The interior design also features openings that have been raised to heights over one metre to cut off distracting sightlines to the outside world for its canine users. Sound absorbing pyramid foam insulation has been used to clad internal surfaces, to mitigate the potentially debilitating effects of excess echoes and reverberation in the metallic enclosure. The south façade is screened by a system of louvered shutters, hung from the exterior edifice, which leave just enough space for dogs to embark outside towards a rainwater harvesting trough placed for them to quench their post-training thirst alongside the space’s avian residents.
In order to contrast the warehouse-style aesthetic of the shipping containers and structural trusses, the designers introduced bright green, orange, and yellow surfaces to add a sense of playfulness to the interior ambience. Bespoke furniture designs, such as a fixed bench with a smooth serrated edge alongside other elements and training equipment transform the space into one meant to inspire exploration and curiosity. These inclusions in many ways elevate the atmosphere from a gloomy industrial setting to one of levity and vibrancy, enticing the unbridled curiosity of its unassuming occupants.
Name: Educan. School for dogs, humans and other species
Location: Brunete, Madrid, Spain
Client: Adiestramiento Educan
Area: 300 sqm
Year of Completion: 2020
Architects: Enrique Espinosa (Eeestudio) & Lys Villalba.
Construction: Servicios Integrales Alji / Construcciones Metálicas Miguel Torrejón
Building Engineer: Javier Reñones Marín
Structural Engineers: Mecanismo
Building Services: Alberto Espinosa
Technical Consultant: Jorge López Hidalgo
Collaborators: Maria Paola Marciano e Irene Domínguez