the new website →

Heracles Papatheodorou

licensed architect, dipl. NTUA
co–founder of City Tales,
based in Athens, Greece


Competition entry for “Innovative Bioclimatic European School in Crete, Greece” – School of European Education in Heraklion

Project details

Competition organiser
School Buildings Organisation of Greece
International Union of Architects
Field area
15,750 m²
Total area
5,180 m²

Design Team

Stavros Gyftopoulos
Kalliopi Nomikou
Heracles Papatheodorou
Christina Poulmenti
Dimitris Sagonas
Associate Architects
Stavros Karagiannidis
Eugenia Nikitopoulou
Natalia–Christina Raftopoulou
Michalis Stoupakis


The competition involves the design of a European school complex in Crete, that will serve the needs of ENISA, the European Network and Information security Agency. The objective of this very design overpasses the need for a “proper” solution and distribution of the school program in the specific plot and acquires importance through its programmatic particularities.

  • To reflect and symbolize the multicultural character of the complex.
  • To embody a bioclimatic approach combined with innovative design and energy efficiency.
  • To comprise educational facilities for students coming from a multicultural environment,
    contributing to the development of conscious world citizens.

Design summary


The building complex is organized into 3 separate modules unfolding around 3 differently scaled, spacious, open areas in a U-shape. All classrooms, laboratories and areas of special interest are placed in a linear fashion around the open spaces and communicate with them through a network of sheltered areas. The rooftops of all multi-purpose halls as well as the laboratories are utilized to create planted relaxation spaces for the students. In order to minimize the apparent size of the complex, all ground floor spaces are hidden inside the natural contours while at the same time combining functional simplicity with spatial diversity. By arranging the buildings around the open spaces, clarifying the functional modules and separating all athletic activities we end up with a compact complex enclosed by an outer wall and characterized with the simplicity of a function diagram.

The 3 schools function together as a whole to facilitate the children’s movements and provide a chance for human conduct. An eloquent dialogue between the void and built spaces, as well as the organic association of the ground with the sheltered areas, maximizes the potential for a recreational break between classes in this relatively small plot.

Using horizontal planes to clarify the different functions within the same building, smaller clusters are formed to help the children to easily orient themselves and thus feel more at home. Using the same notion, all respective classes are grouped together and are equipped with movable partitions so that they can be connected when required or when a contemporary educational program is implemented.

  1. Applying the 15m offset from the site boundaries.
  2. Staying well within the max suggested height of 17m.
  3. Visualizing the North–South and East–West axes.
  4. Arranging the four programmatic clusters.
  5. Giving rise to the “fortified” outer wall.
  6. Laying out the building volumes accordingly.
  7. The antithesis of the outer “hard” and inner “soft” shells.
  8. Pedestrian and vehicular access to the complex.
General complex layout.
Complex diagram per floor.


h2>Main aspects of the synthesis



The wall

A continuous wall defines the perimeter of the complex acting as a solid border between the school microcosm and the outer world. The wall intensifies the continuous form of the building complex on the exterior and at the same time separates the different school modules.
Subsequently, the proposed configuration, or synthesis, exhibits an introvert character, utilizing the forms encountered in the monastery architecture of medieval Crete and the fortresses of the historical past.

The grouping of the sports activities

The open-air, sports activities are situated at southern perimeter of the plot. This decision keeps the inner courtyards free from sports courts. The 15 m zone around the buildings, acquires functions crucial to school life, beyond its apparent function as an overgrown greenery zone.


The three U-shaped, enclosed schoolyards

They organize the school life of each age group, providing the required stimulation in each separate case. The scale of the exterior spaces of the kindergarten in particular helps the youngsters adapt to the school environment while at the same time satisfies their need for exploration and adventure.


The landmark libraries

The libraries stand out in the schoolyards as dominant entities defined in shape and height, declaring their importance to the procedure of knowledge, similarly to how a church plays the most important role in every monastery courtyard.


Planted roofs

The use of planted roofs extends the usable open spaces and playgrounds for the students in this oddly shaped and narrow site. Moreover the green areas on the upper levels contribute decisively towards a pleasant microclimate in the schoolyards while at the same time allowing for the ground floor to be free of plantings, thus permitting more play activities.


Water surfaces

The strong intention to use water in the synthesis led to the design of an underground run-off water collection tank in the basement. A water canal is located above ground, directly over the water tank, inside the 10m zone between the primary and secondary school buildings. This surface effects the schools’ microclimate lowering the temperature of the core area through evaporation. The water canal leads to an open air amphitheater to the south of the plot, in the middle of the sports area, ready to accommodate open air activities for the whole complex.

Longitudinal section between the primary and secondary schools.

Conceptual design & environmental parameters

Class ventilation and light study.

It is fundamental in the design of the school complex that adaptive mechanisms are implemented in order to optimize indoor environmental conditions according to the desirable comfort levels of the designated users. The new pedagogical approach demands a diverse design with flexible spaces and adaptive control elements that can promote new aspects of the learning process and increase the performance of the students.

Study of complex’s cast shadows.
Alternative classroom configurations.

Classrooms were designed without a specific plan in mind allowing for different interior configurations while the facade design is key element in the design process, which in respect to different orientations enhances the provision of indoor comfort conditions in terms of daylight, natural ventilation and optimum indoor temperatures.

Southernmost façade.
Transverse section through the main entrance access ramp.