Luís de Freitas Branco High School

Title: Luís de Freitas Branco High School
Location: Oeiras, Portugal
Studios: Machado Costa; a.s-atelier santos
Authors: Machado Costa; Célia Gomes
Video: Paulo Mendes, Antonio Caramelo
Photos: João Morgado

The Luís de Freitas Branco School is located in a suburban area, over a territory once occupied by agricultural fields and industrial facilities, overlap now by residential buildings, highways and shopping malls. The school, which opened in the 70s, was originally organized around small prefabricated pavilions, implanted in a steeply sloping terrain. Over the times, with the consolidation of the urban territory, the school's perimeter was being surrounded by buildings; nullifying their relationship with the main thoroughfares. The access and internal circulation were difficult, and the school pavilions found to be obsoleted. The project takes advantage of part of the existing pavilions - that are upgraded, to settle the classrooms -: reorganizing all the functional structure of the school complex around two large outdoor spaces: the Courtyard and the Playground. The limits of both plazas are defined by two new buildings - the Central Building and the Educational
Building - which set internal and external links for the school.
The circulation areas are considered central spaces to the school, providing areas to study, to meet, to eat or to play. The main entrance of the complex is redrawn in order to reestablish the urban relationship between the school complex and the village of Paço d’ Arcos.
After the completion of the building, there is a remarkable improvement of the academic results, an exponential increase in the student community, and the use of the School by the surrounding community.


A school is, by definition, a place for learning and a place for growing. More than that: a school is a meeting place: meeting between
people, encounter between communities. To draw a school is, because of that, a privilege. What we do as architects will be, one day, a place where hundreds of children will grow up, will be knowing each other, will listening and will talk, will learn. Therefore, this project is based on a simple idea: to make a school where each space could offer comfort, inviting children to use them as if they are parts of their own house, their own garden, their own city.
Corridors and galleries became places where people can stay, reading, studying and chatting. The atriums are now meeting places. A simple corner is now a place to meet others, to listen music maybe, or to rest for a while. And the stairs are not anymore simple connections between floors, but huge opportunities to gathering We know that, one day, this school will be a memory for all those who used it. And so, the school is designed as if it were the most important building of all buildings that exist. As a palace, or as a house; as a library or as a garden; as a city as well. Because that's how people should live: in extraordinary and happy places.