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Quinta das Flores Artistic High School, Music Conservatory

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José Paulo Santos Architect

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Coimbra, PT

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2010

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Environmental

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Typeface and pictogram design
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Pictograms and floor identification system

Quinta das Flores school signage system / bespoke typeface and pictograms — As part of the Portugal’s program to modernize schools, a new building was introduced to the campus of Quinta das Flores Secondary School, to house the Artistic School of Music of the Coimbra Conservatory. The new addition not only provides a space for musical events and integrates musical lessons into the educational program but also enriches the school’s relationship with the city and its urban environment.


The design brief called for new signage system that was innovative yet functional, inexpensive to realize, and integrated with the new architecture. Given the campus’ accommodation of a conservatory, the designers decided to focus on the school’s unique relationship to music as a starting point for the design. Inspired by the visualization of sound waves as repetitive lines, as well as the verticality of the façade windows, they created a base type comprised of vertical strips and a series of pictograms that also allude to sound.


The idea of sound intensity was translated into the design by differentiating the density of the typeface according to the numerical value of the level of the building on which it is situated; the higher the floor, the more bold the characters. This effect was achieved by a more compact arrangement of vertical lines, the alternating void and fill of the pattern also a visual interpretation of sound versus silence. The spatial character of the building — predominantly large open volumes and long corridors — made the use an oversized typeface particularly appropriate in terms of scale, also lending the signage added functionality.


We have developed the design in two months, and faced with the challenge of implementing it within a narrow time frame. Being commissioned by a public institution also entailed a tight budget, which designers responded to with a simple design that could be executed by a straightforward technique and very few materials: using stencils to apply black paint directly onto the concrete walls. The bespoke typeface and pictograms was designed by Lizá Ramalho and Artur Rebelo in collaboration with Sebastian Fischer.


The result is a strikingly simple and effective signage system that cohesively ties in all the desired elements of a coherent design: economical in both cost and resources, evocative of the architecture and the program of the buildings it serves, and innovative in its proposal, conferring the school a distinctly bold identity in a way not usually found within an educational context.

Architecture
José Paulo dos Santos

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