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New opportunity for Prince's Island. Porto Real school project

09 of November '20

Anagricultural secondary school on Princes' Island, a site with a difficult history of slavery, is a proposal by Magdalena Fronska of Gdansk University of Technology. The project, created by the architecture graduate, makes use of some of the workshop buildings left over from the production of coffee and cocoa, giving them a new function while preserving their historic form.

Magdalena Fronska's project is a master's thesis, made under the direction of Dr. Marek Gawdzik.

As the author says about the idea for the work:

I was fortunate to be born in a free country, where I was given unlimited access to education and the opportunity to develop my potential. As a result, the last five years of my educational path through foreign exchanges and internships in Lisbon, Hamburg, Berlin and New York have made me particularly sensitive to cultural differences and international issues. In gratitude for these experiences, I became increasingly concerned about the vast number of children and young people who simply did not have the opportunities I had. As a result, I decided to devote my master's thesis to the project of an agricultural secondary school for students of African Prince's Island. The idea to tackle this topic was born while I was on one of my exchanges in Portugal.

project presentation

© Magdalena Fronska

difficult history

São Tomé and Príncipe are two tiny African equatorial islands discovered in 1470 by Portuguese navigators, resulting in more than five hundred years of Portuguese ownership. From sugar cane cultivation to coffee and cocoa, the Portuguese used African slaves for agricultural work. Years of slavery, uprisings and civil unrest ended with the country's independence in 1975. But most of its people were left in complete poverty without any job skills to help them develop their new country's economy.

Lokalizacja na mapie

location on the world map

© Magdalena Fronska

Since there are only three elementary schools and one kindergarten on the smaller Prince's Island, Magdalena Fronska decided to revitalize the so-called Roca Porto Real into a secondary agricultural school for local youth. The Rocas system was associated with the coffee and cacao cycle. The historic satellite villages that occupied most of the islands' territory in the 19th century made Portugal one of the world's largest exporters of cocoa in 1908. Today, abandoned and receding into oblivion, they remain only in the memories of the local population. The author realized that if immediate action is not taken, this heritage could be lost forever.

Drewniane bungalowy

The buildings are made of exotic wood, among other materials

© Magdalena Fronska

new school, new opportunities

With independence, Roca stopped the production of cocoa, the workshop area centered around the main square, was abandoned and destroyed. The diplomat decided to revitalize and give a new function to the existing part, and to build a secondary school on the site of the remains of the old workshops, preserving the historic plan. Although slavery was abolished by Portugal in 1869, the Rocas were shaped in a way that gave landowners total power over workers. The urban layout and architecture of the Rocas revealed the hierarchy that prevailed on the island - from the magnificent homes of the Portuguese landowners, to the austere homes of the workers, to the barracks of infrastructure used to produce cocoa and coffee. This layout presented quite a design challenge.

Plan całego
założenia szkoły

The workshop space was divided into seven bungalows

© Magdalena Fronska

The designer decided to divide the workshop area into seven separate bungalows, creating cozy common spaces between them, intended to encourage team-building activities and relaxation. In the empty central square, she created so-called open classrooms for outdoor activities. The main goal of the Gdansk University of Technology graduate's concept was to inspire students to acquire knowledge and increase their self-confidence.

respect for heritage and nature

Since Princeska Island has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2012, the project was created in harmony with the surrounding nature. The educational part was designed using natural local materials. The existing part of the workshop area, was revitalized and adapted for the office of deans and teachers. The historical plan of the workshop area has also been preserved - window details and paintings on the walls. Rocas were the only reinforced concrete structures on the island, alluding to the fact that the existing load-bearing walls are made of reinforced concrete. Meanwhile, the vertical wooden details used on the building's connectors and facades, which serve both a structural and decorative function, allude to the sugar cane originally grown on the islands.

Drewno jako główny
materiał konstrukcyjny Atrium jednego z budynkó

The wooden details allude to sugar cane

© Magdalena Fronska

Most of the buildings on St. Thomas and Princes' islands are made of wood. Local people put aside wood for years to build their homes. The strength of untreated exotic wood is even several times greater than that of treated European wood. The author kept the old roof structure - a king-post roof truss, which consists of a rim, rafters, king post and two struts. She used the same solution for the extension section. The open classrooms designed in the middle of the so-called terreiro, or main plaza, are made entirely of local wood.

As Magdalena Fronska says of the project:

This project is my sincere expression of gratitude for the amazing opportunities that met me on my educational path. It is difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that the world we live in is full of inequality and injustice. By dedicating nine months of work to this topic, I hope to influence the improvement of this situation, to inspire and show how through architecture we are able to change the world for the better.

Magdalena's thesis was in this year's finals of the Zbyszek Zawitowski SARP Diploma of the Year competition.

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