Where beauty and education go hand in hand
Opálka Design studio
It’s not every day that one encounters a primary school with adjoining kindergarten housed in a nineteenth-century Renaissance Revival-style castle, surrounded by beautiful large grounds and old trees. Located in Prague’s historic Hostavice neighbourhood, the building has been used as an educational institution since the Second World War and was recently remodelled by the Opalka Design architecture firm, which proposed a splendid project incorporating the principles of the Montessori method adopted by the school. The teaching system developed by the great Italian educationalist is used successfully in more than 60,000 schools worldwide and aims to nurture talent in all disciplines by giving children the freedom to develop their own personal creativity (famous alumni include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the great Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, and the award-winning queen of contemporary pop Beyoncé). A child-friendly school environment and contact with nature are two particularly important aspects of the method.
The Be Open school is a perfect example. Extending over two floors, its spaces are furnished with unusual elements intended to foster a sense of freedom and energy and to encourage children to develop their creativity and playfulness in close contact with the surrounding natural environment. “The intention of this project was to connect these magnificent exteriors and their life force with the interior spaces where the children learn and play,” explains the architect Matú? Opálka. “Moreover, we wanted to highlight the original features so we maintained and restored the doors, the granite staircases, the parquet floors in the classrooms, the vaults and some of the decorative elements, while we installed new stucco mouldings on the entrance walls to complete the building and give it a new look.”
The renovation project returned the castle to its original state, eliminating the subdivision into numerous small rooms and creating an airy, functional space with soft, natural colours and minimalist furnishings along with original features such as origami birds suspended from the ceiling and scattered clouds designed to lower the visual perception of the high ceilings.
Standing out from the harmony and playfulness of the project as a whole is the Terra series, small size floor and wall tiles by Marca Corona, inspired by classical motifs reinterpreted according to contemporary design trends. The Terra series of highly decorative porcelain cement tiles welcomes the children at the entrance with the playful Geometria decoration, which blends in with the colourful armchairs and is framed to great effect by the elegant grey and black backgrounds. The Terra collection also proved ideal for the functional spaces. In the canteen and kitchen area, characterised by a minimalist design, wooden furniture and fresh touches of colour, the Cubo decoration was used to create original decorated carpets that delimit the various areas of the large open space. The designers instead opted for simplicity in the gym changing rooms with the choice of a plain grey floor tile, but allowed themselves greater creativity in the bathrooms where they chose the playful Mix Decori for both the floors and walls.
Marca Corona, Terra
25x21.6 - 20x20 cm
Grey, Black, Mix in cold version
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): Ev ≤ 0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): A
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 175 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): R ≥ 35 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant