Els Xiprers –The Cypresses in Catalan– is the name of a Barcelona primary school situated in a very special setting: a forested nature park. Its only neighbors are the Vil·la Joana, an old farmhouse where the nineteenth century romantic poet Jacint Verdaguer spent the last days of his life, and the Parc de Collserola Information Centre, where the park warden is based.
Most of the children attending this school arrive at a nearby train station (in special school-train cars accompanied by monitors) from which they then have to hike uphill along a kilometer-long path before finally arriving at the school, rain or shine (or snow). Fridays are typically the day when a number of parents opt to pick up their children after school, making for a time of socializing, gossip, bake-sales, and play in the schoolyard.
This school and its beautiful surroundings have been a formative part of my daughter’s life during the past nine years (three years of pre-school followed by grades one through 6), contributing to her being a healthy, happy, and inquisitive child. The architecture of the building alone did not achieve this; nor did the landscape by itself. Clearly, it is the successful marriage of these two, and the extremely rich ‘use’ of space that this merger enables, that makes this place so special.
Is that so complicated?