|Location:||Prague, Czech Republic|
Office Ou has been selected as the winner of an international competition to design a new public school in the historic Smichov district of Prague. Organized by the Centre for Central European Architecture (CCEA MOBA) on behalf of the City of Prague, the competition drew 66 entries from around the world.
Designed in collaboration with Poland’s INOSTUDIO Architects, Office Ou’s Smichov elementary school will be the first new urban public school built in central Prague in nearly 100 years. The new 10,000 m2 building will accommodate approximately 540 students aged 6 to 14. It is located within the ambitious Smichov City redevelopment, which aims to transform some 200,000 m2 of former urban railway lands near Prague’s historic centre into a mixed-use community that prioritizes green space, walkability, and a fine-grained urban fabric.
The school's design is guided by the idea of fostering a sense of social and environmental stewardship in students. This can be seen as learning how to take care, at a scale that expands as children grow: taking care of themselves, of their classmates, of the school community, and finally of the wider urban community and natural world. A building can support this by offering opportunities for students to engage with the city and with nature, to see themselves as part of a wider community, and find connections between classroom learning and the outside world.
At the site level, the building forms an urban edge to the main neighborhood boulevard, where the main entry is located along with amenity spaces open for public use after school hours. The playing field and running track on the east steps to the public park with a set of tiered steps, and the groundkeeper's house is placed to watch over the vehicle dropoff and secondary entrance.
The building itself is conceived of as a simple, gridded framework, populated by classrooms, gyms, offices, terraces, gardens, etc. This frame formally unifies the building while allowing the diversity and individuality of the different program elements to flourish. Internally, the school is organized around a central atrium and stair that connects all floors and lands at the auditorium. This serves as the central gathering space for the school community. The ground level contains the major shared spaces including the cafeteria, auditorium, gyms, club rooms. Level +1 is reserved for Tier 1 (junior) students, Level +2 is for Tier 2 (senior) students, and Level +3 is for specialty classrooms, each with its own quietly whimsical roof shape. Rooftop terraces and courtyards bring light deep into the building, and provide secure play spaces and gardens. Individual classrooms are clearly legible within their grid, and their balcony spaces encourage students and teachers to show their work off to the city. The entire building speaks of its internal life, and hopefully encourages students to see it as their school, home, and community.