When Medusa Group Architects was tasked to design a high school in Warsaw, the Polish interdisciplinary design studio’s team seized the opportunity to address the perceived failures of the public education system to keep up with changing millennial needs. As a result, their design of Akademeia High School, completed in 2015, encourages a welcoming and flexible “lifestyle atmosphere” where students are encouraged to stay in school even after classes end. Built primarily of locally sourced timber, the school also boasts low energy consumption and has achieved LEED Platinum certification with a total of 86 points.
Spanning an area of 14,369 square meters, the Akademeia High School comprises a U-shaped building that wraps around a central courtyard. Taking inspiration from urban design and place-making principles, the architects deliberately introduced a sense of ambiguity to many of the indoor spaces to encourage students to adapt the rooms to multifunctional uses. Seating, for example, is no longer limited to benches and chairs but also encompasses sculptural interior surfaces and the stairs of the outdoor amphitheater-like structure facing the central courtyard.
The school cafeteria has also been transformed from a traditionally single-use space into a multi-use space akin to a “fashionable restaurant” that is open throughout the day for various functions. “This is a place where you can work with literature, meet with a psychologist, wait for parents and at the same time sit at a laptop and do homework, preparing the elders,” explain the architects in their project statement. “We wanted pupils in small groups to learn the culinary art from the kitchen, get to know the flavors and make inspiring, culinary travels – geography with gastronomy in one.”
Students can further their culinary arts education on the accessible roof, where an urban garden grows and houses beehives during the summer. The herbs grown on the roof are used in the school cafeteria. The rooftop space can also host classroom activities, from biology and physics to astronomy and geography.
Photography: Jędrzej i Juliusz Sokołowscy