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Venice Biennale 2012


Aberrant Architecture
Animating Education: Learning from Rio de Janeiro

aberrant architecture investigated a radical and experimental school-building programme conceived by Leonel Brizola, Darcy Ribeiro and Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil in the 1980s. The programme provided a series of high-quality standardised and prefabricated primary schools, known as CIEPs (Integrated Centres of Public Education), which were designed to support and enhance curricula. Today this network of 508 CIEPs covers the entire city and state of Rio de Janeiro. From towns and cities to favelas and beach resorts, wherever you find people, you’ll find a CIEP.

In a climate of austerity in the UK, with limited educational funds and a shortage of space for new primary schools, aberrant proposes that standardising school design will not only reduce costs but also set a new global standard of high-quality schools accessible to any student.

Interview with aberrant architecture

Why did you want to be part of Venice Takeaway?

The project seemed like a good opportunity to solve contemporary problems with research-driven design, which is the ethos of our studio. We were keen to apply our approach to schools, which are most people’s first workplace and arguably the most important of all. We like the idea of connecting the international with the local. In this spirit, learning lessons from school- building in Brazil – specifically the Integrated Centres of Public Education (CIEPs) in Rio de Janeiro – helps us develop the new ideas that are sorely needed to improve the design and production of school buildings in the UK.

Where did your idea come from?
You could say the idea happened by accident, but we would say it came as a result of intrepid exploration and research! We try to visit Brazil regularly. On a trip last year, whilst driving to a beach outside Rio de Janeiro, we stumbled across an interesting but relatively unknown building by Oscar Niemeyer. It appeared to be a replica of a more familiar building in Rio. After doing some digging, we learned that both buildings are examples of CIEPs. What began as casual curiosity about an obscure Niemeyer building sparked a wider investigation into a radical school-building programme.

How are research and exploration important to your practice?
Research and exploration are integral to our practice. Whatever shape our research takes – whether historic or contemporary, serious or playful – our investigations use design to improve the way people live, work and play. Our inspiration comes from many sources. Whether we’re rummaging through the RIBA Drawing Collections, or spending a couple of weeks ‘living’ in the shop window of London’s Selfridges department store, our research is aimed at the real world and at addressing everyday needs, wants and desires.