Architects Used Mirrors to Make This School in Spain Disappear into the Sky

ABLM architects used mirrors on the top storey of this school to make it appear closer in scale to its small occupants.

Spanish architecture studio ABLM have used mirrors to make this school design appear to be half its size. The designers wanted to create a space that was relatable to its small inhabitants.

Architects Used Mirrors to Make This School in Spain Disappear into the Sky
Source: ABLM Arquitectos/ Miguel de Guzmán y Rocío Romero/Imagen Subliminal

They used mirrors and other reflective materials on the top floor that manage to reflect the sky. The bottom part of the building is covered in candy-colored stripes. The palette is chosen from a diverse range of seven colors that aim to represent the diversity amongst the children that will attend school there. The preschool and primary school is in the Salamanca county of La Armuña.

Architects Used Mirrors to Make This School in Spain Disappear into the Sky
Source: ABLM Arquitectos/ Miguel de Guzmán y Rocío Romero/Imagen Subliminal

Invisible school disappears into the clouds

“The almost invisible school proposes a reflection on the domestic scale of this kind of infrastructures, where the little ones must find spaces that they can catch and places with which they can dream,” said architects Arturo Blanco and Laura Martínez of ABM Arquitectos.

Architects Used Mirrors to Make This School in Spain Disappear into the Sky
Source: ABLM Arquitectos/ Miguel de Guzmán y Rocío Romero/Imagen Subliminal

The school's entrance is clad in the same reflective aluminum surface as the building's upper floors. The almost ‘invisible’ material is a composite aluminum sheet with a highly reflective finish. The colorful ground floor of the building is created from ceramic tiles.

Architects Used Mirrors to Make This School in Spain Disappear into the Sky
Source: ABLM Arquitectos/ Miguel de Guzmán y Rocío Romero/Imagen Subliminal

This area of Salamanca is undergoing an industrialization process that is causing large factory and commercial buildings to be built. Blanco and Martínez explain: "In the metropolitan area of the city of Salamanca, the municipality of Villares de la Reina stands out for its transformation during the last decades as it has one of the industrial estates of the city.” The designers wanted to avoid adding another large imposing building into a landscape that was already suffering from a loss of intimate space.

Architects Used Mirrors to Make This School in Spain Disappear into the Sky
Source: ABLM Arquitectos/ Miguel de Guzmán y Rocío Romero/Imagen Subliminal

Ancient Greeks used forced perspective to achieve perfection

Architects have been manipulating materials to maintain control over how their buildings are viewed since the ancient Greeks. This method is often called forced perspective. Forced perspective is the use of manipulating space and materiality to change the way your eyes brain understand what it is looking at.

Architects Used Mirrors to Make This School in Spain Disappear into the Sky
Source: Steve Swayne/Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Greek and Roman architects were very concerned with perfection within their structures but simultaneously understood that natural perspective would warp buildings when viewed from distance. To counteract this and to ensure buildings were always looking as perfect as possible (from the right viewpoint) these ancient architects employed many forced perspective tricks.

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The Parthenon in Greece is a great example of this. While architectural rules at the time insisted that each column be exactly the same size and evenly spaced apart what eventuated in the building is more space between the columns on the end than those in the middle. This slight inconsistency creates an optical illusion where all columns appear evenly spaced and the same size. In addition to the spacing trick, the Parthenon has one more forced illusion up its sleeve. To ensure that the columns look perfectly straight when viewed from a distance, they actually bulge out at their middle point. If this didn’t happen the very tall columns would appear to narrow at their top. 

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