Exterior Architecture / CSTD News / Contemporary Stone & Tile Design Magazine

A colorful display of Spanish tile

Custom-made tile played a key role in the success of the design for the Children Education Center and Children Innovation Center in Valencia, Spain, which combines aesthetics with practical needs

June 12, 2013

With its vibrant colors and unique circular-shaped buildings, the campus of the Children Education Center and Children Innovation Center in Valencia, Spain, is a playful and creative design conceived by Foursquare Arquitectos.  Each of the five buildings is clad in its own color of custom-made porcelain tile — manufactured by Tile of Spain-branded manufacturer Natucer — and designated for a specific age group of children.  But beyond the architectural aesthetic, the design team put a strong emphasis on making an interactive facility.

“The Children Education Center & Children Innovation Center building seeks a relationship with the children — integrating architecture as an emotional component to their education,” according to a design statement.  “It is used to increase outreach activities to encourage cultural awareness from childhood. The idea is to generate spaces and opportunities for creativity. The building encourages a transmission of sensations from both inside and out, creating different spaces that encourage exploration.”

Each of the five colored buildings has its own specific purpose.  The violet building is designed for infants 0 to 12 months and also houses breastfeeding facilities.  The pink structure is for toddlers from 1 to 2 years and the green building is for 2 to 3 years old.  Additionally, the red building accommodates a communal area, a gym, a multipurpose leisure room and a heated pool with saline water as well as space for three- to six-year-olds. The blue structure is reserved for offices.

Inspiration for color

The buildings are round to make them “softer,” since children will be running around, explained Project Architect Ana Garcia Sala.  “The colors are inspired by the world of children,” she said.  “They are all colorful.  We didn’t want anything too strong, like primary colors, because we didn’t want it too childish.”

The architect worked closely with M2 Distribucion of Valencia, Spain, to find just the right tiles for the project.  “We had to find the proper factory to make them,” explained Ramón Spaudo, of M2 Distribucion, the distributor for the project.  “There are five buildings and four shades of each color in each building.  It’s a very sunny area, so we had to get the right tones with the reflection.  It was all supervised by the architect.  We worked with her creativity.”

According to Spaudo, the architect worked with a Pantone color guide to select the shades.  Natucer would then make samples to show her.  “She adjusted the tones, and then they would meet again. It took about three meetings.  Natucer and I spoke the same language.  It was fun.”

Monitoring the production process

The customized porcelain tiles were a combination of straight pieces — measuring 5.3 x 21.6 inches — and curved pieces — measuring 5.3 inches with a curvature of 33.5 inches — to allow for inside and outside curve which are attached to tracks with aluminum staples in slots in the tiles which are made in situ. The tracks are placed by a sandwiched panel of aluminum and mineral wool supported by a metallic substructure.

To achieve the correct curvature of the tiles, Natucer carefully monitored the production process.  The ceramic glazed porcelain was obtained by extrusion and single-fire baking at 1,195 degrees Celsius.  The glazes used are for high temperature and have been colored with dispersible pigments in order to obtain the desired hues and colors — giving each piece greater depth.

Spaudo said that Natucer delivered the tiles in 70 days from the start of the process. Conception on the project began in 2006, and the school opened for its first classes in January 2013.  It was the design intent that this facility would serve as a model for future schools. 

Recently, the project received a Coverings Installation & Design Award in the International Design category.

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