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Benni Allan ‘dresses’ his former primary school for just £1,000

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A ‘dress’ of painted bitumen panels has brought a new identity to this small, rural school in Spain

The school, located in a rural area of Alicante, was established by Allan’s father in 1973 and is currently managed by his younger brother. Spanish planning laws dictate that any new buildings on designated agricultural land must be classified as ’temporary’, and since 1980 the school has been housed in a simple prefabricated structure. 

Despite ongoing maintenance over the years, the building has weathered and become tired, and Allan felt it ‘needed a significant facelift’. As well as improving its facilities, the school wanted a distinctive architectural identity that would inspire its students.

La Falda 01

La Falda by estudio b

Limited funds meant that material options were restricted, and only low-tech construction methods would be available, so the façade was designed to be inexpensive to construct and relatively simple to fit to the existing building. Corrugated bitumen panels – commonly used on warehouses and farm buildings – were chosen, being easy to shape, paint and maintain. Fitted to a lightweight aluminium frame, panels of various sizes were painted after prototyping in the studio and arranged in a mural-style composition of different tones of red – a visual reference to the terracotta tiles that characterise the roofs of houses throughout the region.

As the new façade began to emerge, teachers were reminded of the colour and patterns of Valencian festival attire, referring to Allan’s design as ‘La Falda’ – the dress, a name which has stuck. Allan, his family and a number of his architecture students from the University of Greenwich undertook the making and fitting of the façade and the overall renovation of the school themselves, achieving the modest budget of £1,000.

01 axp whole site 2

La Falda by estudio b


Project data

Start on site May 2018
 June 2018
Gross internal floor area 
Form of contract or procurement route
Construction cost 
Sierra Bernia School
Benni Allan, Nicolas Allan, Sarah Brooke, Pedro Gomez, Gabi Mészáros, Paula Pocol, Sheryl Si

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