Artist and architect elevates sport to new level

University professor, artist and architect Guzmán de Yarza Blache demonstrates multi-tasking abilities in Spain
Lasalle Franciscanas School in Zaragoza, Spain - J1 Arquitectos
Lasalle Franciscanas School in Zaragoza, Spain - J1 Arquitectos

Guzmán de Yarza Blache, a professor at IE University in the Spanish city of Segovia, is a multi-tasker. As well as being an architect with J1 Arquitectos, he’s a visual artist and has had his work shown at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Vigo (MARCO), the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, the Centro de Arte Recoleta de Buenos Aires, and the National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow.

His belief is that being both artist and architect “enriches both practises and allows an exchange of sensitivity that eventually aims to somehow illuminate our perception of human condition”.

This thinking may well have informed his latest building – an elevated sports court at Lasalle Franciscanas School in Zaragoza, Spain. The problem was that students going to and from the school buildings often disrupted matches in the playground.

J1’s solution was to build a raised sports ground on concrete stilts. Yarza Blache explains why concrete was the obvious choice here: “Being a school meant that we had to accomplish the building works during the summer months. That fact made us immediately think about a prefabricated concrete structure that could be built in a couple of days.”


Lasalle Franciscanas School in Zaragoza, Spain - J1 Arquitectos
Lasalle Franciscanas School in Zaragoza, Spain - J1 Arquitectos

The structure is encased in two layers of steel fencing which curves inwards at the top, to stop any balls flying out. It’s see-through at the moment, but 300 ivy plants have been trained to grow up and eventually envelope the sides. (This new greenery compensates for the two trees that were sacrificed during the construction).

An infants’ playground on one side and an entrance to the main building on the other are accessed from the new court via zigzagging ramps. And beneath the new court there’s a multi-coloured covered play area.

The kids have clearly taken to their school’s new addition, and in long-standing architectural tradition have given it a nickname: The Whale. For more green solutions to architectural and design challenges check out our book Vitamin Green


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