x3m builds a new school in croatia to incorporate large outdoor spaces for the community

x3m builds a new school in croatia to incorporate large outdoor spaces for the community

situated in the pazdigrad neighborhood of split, croatia, x3m has designed a school as a place not only for education but also as a common space for the local residents. the architects’ idea for the project, even in the early phase of the competition, was to create a place for socialising, playing, recreation, fun and relaxation, with the aim to strengthen integration and community by enabling numerous new scenarios of use and the possibility of different activities within the school surroundings.

the school is located on the outskirts of split in the area that has been in transition from agricultural suburbia to a ‘proper’ residential quarter for the last 25 years

all images © bosnić+dorotić



for the last 25 years the pazdigrad neighborhood has been going through the process of transformation from agricultural suburbia into residential area. this is the area of the city where one can still find abandoned farming fields, family gardens and orchards, commercial greenhouses, as well as small craftsman workshops, service stores and family houses next to the new multistory housing, apartment buildings and shopping malls. the public space of the area is nonexistent and is reduced entirely to the network of streets, without adequate or, indeed, any kind of hierarchy, coherence and interconnection. the area where the school is located is, in fact, one of those so-called suburban ‘islands’, formed by just such a network of streets.

nikola đurek’s typography intervention on the façade provides an additional semantic layer and serves as a protection ‘skin’ for the ‘intentional unfinishedness’ of the project



for all these reasons, the architects envisioned this space not merely as a place of education but more as an common space constantly accessible to all the residents of the neighborhood. the project achieves this by using the topography of the site, positioned on the steep slope, was used to multiply the available space of the plot by creating platforms stacked one above the other. in between is where the spaces of the school, sports hall and courts are formed, complemented by the open spaces around them accessible to all the residents of the area. these newly created public spaces ‘disguise’ the dimensions of the school building. several days before the start of the school year the construction site fences were removed from the site. within just a few hours, all of the public platforms were already in use.

vertical organisation facilitates the functional one: basement serves as a space for indoor sports, ground floor is a central space of the school, first and second floors are reserved for classrooms

the color accents in an otherwise rather neutral environment are the indoor and outdoor sports hall floorings

light grey cast concrete dominates the overall appearance, in the interior complemented with polished terrazzo, oak wood and acoustic ceilings

due to the lack of public spaces of any kind in the area the school is designed not just as a place of education, but also as a collective space for the entire neighborhood

all of the open areas of the school are 0-24 accessible to all the residents of the neighborhood

the project comprises an extensive educational program for 720 pupils: 8 for 1st to 4th grade, 12 for 5th to 8th grade, multipurpose hall, library, dining area, sports halls and fields

long lasting protests of the residents, demanding eventual construction of the school, helped to shape a sense of community

through the design process the public space area obtained (12,100 m2) became larger than the entire site area (11,600 m2) offering the community wide array of outdoor collective spaces

the design is based on exposing the structure: columns, slabs, brise-soleils and walls simultaneously support the building structurally and act as its façade

the site, located on a steep and descending terrain, was too small for the required program, so a new topography was created to multiply the available surfaces



project info:


project name: žnjan-pazdigrad primary school

location: split, croatia

architecture studio: x3m

lead architects: mirela bošnjak, mirko buvinić, maja furlan zimmermann

completion year: 2017

year began: 2015

design year: 2009 (public competition)

gross built area: 124,861.36 ft2 (11,600 m2)

usable floor area: 84,281.42 ft2 (7,830 m2)

client: city of split, croatia

photography: bosnić+dorotić

collaborators: nikola đurek (design and typography), eugen gojšak, marija šarac, marijan bračun, ivan dolovčak, damir leskovšek (structural engineering), mateo biluš (building physics and details), siniša radić and atiljo duplančić (mechanical installations), milan bjedov (water supply and drainage), vojislav štrbac (electro installations), branimir cindori (sprinkler), ognjen truta (fire consulting), alojzije car and hrvoje kostelac (traffic), teo cvitanović (boq), marin blažetić (elevator), mladen rumenčić (technical safety), zoran divjak (kitchen technology), branislav trifunović and marinko matuzović (shelter), ines hrdalo and vesna hrga martić (landscape)


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lynne myers | designboom

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