Peru's first 'pandemic proof' school is embracing outdoor learning

The school will be centered around a campus-wide natural river
The school will be centered around a campus-wide natural river Copyright Illustration by IDOM/Rosan Bosch Studio
By Shannon McDonagh
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Lima’s newest learning environment will be situated around a river and built with recycled wood.

Peru is leading the way to combine sustainable building and outdoor learning to create the world’s first “pandemic-proof” school.


Lima’s Markham College Lower school is getting a redesign that seeks to reshape how young people learn post-COVID. It will contain three stories of flexible, multipurpose areas that encourage students to take part in learning outside just as much as they do in classrooms.

The school’s eco-friendly replacement grounds will exceed 10,000 square feet (929 square metres) and accommodate 750 students from ages 6 to 12. Future pupils will have access to a swimming pool, gym, science labs, and creative studios for art, music and drama.

Illustration by IDOM/Rosan Bosch Studio
Markham College Lower school's new design will work with the surrounding area to combine nature and innovationIllustration by IDOM/Rosan Bosch Studio

What does a "pandemic-proof" school look like?

The campus will be oriented around a river that runs throughout in order to make the best use of the land's natural topography. Vertical gardens, open rooftop play areas, and inner courtyards are all a part of the design. It will play a role in setting an example for the schools of our future as they work to create sustainable, better-ventilated spaces for children to learn in.

Construction will be undertaken by Danish architects Rosan Bosch, famed for their ingenious education buildings spanning from Sweden to Dubai. Together, they will work with Spanish architecture company IDOM to create a school that addresses many of the planning problems faced by communal spaces during COVID-19.

As far as sustainability is concerned, the school is working towards a goal of being carbon neutral. Recycled wood panelling is being used wherever it is structurally possible, along with systems in place that use natural shading and ventilation for minimal energy costs.

"We understand this new school as a landscape project. It is architecture based on the topography, natural materials and the Peruvian culture in relation to the landscape,” says comments Manuel Andrades, Project Director at IDOM.

“Sustainability is one of the cornerstones for our design strategy.”

“We are building with a nearly zero-energy and a net zero carbon footprint while integrating local, reused or recycled materials. The building is designed for natural cross ventilation that will provide 100 per cent fresh air without any recirculation,” he explains.

Illustration by IDOM/Rosan Bosch Studio
One of the new plan's combined indoor/outdoor spacesIllustration by IDOM/Rosan Bosch Studio

Pandemic proof designs are our future

This year has forced institutions worldwide to rethink their current practices so they are best prepared for future health crises.

Unlike Markham’s school, some businesses do not view moving outside as a viable solution. Across the Atlantic, Colorado’s Health Capitol is reimagining Western offices using spacious planning and a higher quality of air ventilation.

"We cannot continue designing cities and buildings as if nothing had happened,” says Vicente Guallart, founder of Barcelona-based architects Guallart.


The firm discussed this off the back of winning a contract to design one of China’s newly-formed urban settings in Baoding, south of Beijing. It will feature larger balcony spaces, a neighbourhood “health app” and mixed purpose community blocks with a focus on sustainability.

"This pandemic has accelerated the future,” he explained. “Cities have seen what they are capable of if they face a challenge, and therefore decisions related to climate change and its impact on the urban model, on the design of buildings, on mobility, should be made immediately”.

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