La Esperanza School
La Esperanza School swimming pool is designed as a therapeutic facility to be used mainly by children with physical disabilities between the ages of 5 and 16 years. La Esperanza (Luis Pales Matos) School’s student population of 238 students has grown by 19% over five school years. The student:teacher ratio of 5:1is the lowest in Puerto Rico.
The facilities are open to the public but will be used primarily by students of La Esperanza School; thus the yellowish-green “verde esperanza” color of the exterior and the word “esperanza” (“hope”) written on the bottom of the main pool. This is the first structure of its kind in Puerto Rico.
The project is located in an unused parking lot adjacent to La Esperanza School. This location provides a connection between the pool and the school by means of a pedestrian passage that connects both sites. This location also helped to save the budget and provides space for a future expansion.
The protagonists of the space are the light and the sky. One of the most important intentions of the project was to create a unique space where natural light constantly transforms the atmosphere inside; creating a direct connection between the user and nature and facilitating the healing process.
The design focuses on empowering the user, highlighting and promoting the spatial experience rather than the clinical requirements necessary for a therapeutic space, while still meeting all the requirements of universal design. This differentiates La Esperanza School swimming pool from other projects of its kind which tend to focus on highly visible clinical requirements such as ramps and handrails, putting in second place the user experience.
Every pool is treated as a courtyard; a prototypical Puerto Rican design element rooted in the colonial and vernacular architectures of the island. From within the pools the ceiling apertures with their tall cylindrical parapets frame the sky generating a direct relationship between users and the celestial sphere. This is important because children receive therapies while floating on their backs, looking upwards.
A welcoming atmosphere
The material used for construction is a structural concrete insulated panel composed of a thermally insulating foam core coated with structural mortar. This keeps the space at a comfortable temperature while the introverted design blocks exterior distractions while still allowing for ample natural light.
The cylindrical shapes and curves of La Esperanza School swimming pool accentuate the introverted and tranquil character of the space creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for the therapies to occur. A small stream of water flowing into the main pool, while working as part of the filtration system, also generates a subtle splashing sound creating an atmosphere of tranquility, relaxation and peace. In contrast to the bright exterior the interior finishes are predominantly white and neutral, keeping with the calming therapeutic nature of the space.
Municipality of San Juan
Bürgermeisterin Carmen Yulín Cruz
Fuster + Architects
FUSTER + Architects