The School of Color

We have written posts  before about the importance of color in school environments so this week we wanted to show you a fantastic new school overhaul using color to its every advantage. Braamcamp Freire Secondary School just outside of Lisbon  was originally built in 1986 as five prefabricated buildings. Prefabricated housing and architecture have come along way in recent year but back in the 80’s it meant something close to late 1960’s brutalism: grey unicolor structures with poor lighting and that special lingering prefab smell. 

Recently this school has undergone a massive and colorfully considered overhaul. The reclamation project was a result of Portugal’s “Modernisation of Secondary Schools Programme,” a country wide initiative aimed at not only making schools more useable by reorganizing spaces and adding visual cues to indicate the use of different spaces, but also to  make school buildings available  for community based functions. 


There is a crisis in education these days over everything from tests scores, kids being bored, what should be taught in our new information technology world, summer breaks, and teacher review systems. While color and architecture can’t address all of those factors, it can play an important role in making the kids feel like they want to go to school to learn.  This school has gone from five disconnected building with little thoughtful interaction to an energetic campus.

Such bright colors might seem at first seem too primary, too saturated, or too intense, but that’s just the point.  When hundreds of kids have to sit in the same building day after day after day, especially one that was formerly entirely grey concrete,  the  new colorful environment  contributes visual stimulus  to  combat the cognitive stupor.    The bold pops of primary colors reorient the eye from  an undifferentiated mass of grey concerte to individual spaces, and pathways.   

Not just visual components were added in the hope of keeping the kids on track, the overhaul addressed auditory problems as well. As anyone who has ever been in a fully concrete building can attest, sounds tend to travel. The architects added  acoustic panels and special punctured concrete blocks to cut down on hallway noise which can be a huge source of distraction for the kids. 


Project: ES / EB3 Braamcamp Freire
Location: Pontinha, Lisboa, Portugal
Client: Parque Escolar, EPE
Total built area: 15,800 m2
Project and construction period: 2010 – 2012


– Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
– Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

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