Schools in Bulgaria keep the imprint of the past socialist period. A long corridor with rooms attached to it, identical desks and chairs facing the podium, where the teacher, the source of knowledge, stands. An educational model, fit for the 21st century, is hard to thrive in this environment. Because of that, 90. SU “José de san Martín” school in Sofia approached Lusio architects to redesign part of their existing building into a new STEM space called “Grow”. The process was long and involved extensive research – on-site observation of school life, interviews and focus groups with the teachers and students. In a series of workshops, the architects discovered several challenges for the space – such as the need for teachers to write on “never ending” whiteboards and that students desire privacy and concentration, as well as different places to socialize.

TypologyEducation center at school
Floor area564 m2
1976 (2021)
ArchitectsLusio Architects
Inner space transformation

The co-creation process does not stop with the research. After the initial design concept, the architects, students, and teachers gathered to scrutinize the project, and everyone gave their feedback and ideas. One of the most important things for the teachers was to be able to bring two or more classes together to work on common projects keeping at the same time the relative independence of individual class units. Students wanted to feel their relationship with nature and do much more than studying with their classmates – cooking, sewing, building robots, etc.


The school building is mono-functional – focused solely on the learning process. The potential of the school as a community centre is not being used.

The transformed spaces encourage social gatherings after working hours. This attracts children to spend their leisure time, and residents from the neighbourhood can come to community gatherings. 

The lack of common spaces that bring people together. There is no opportunity for all the users to meet each other and get to know each other at least by sight.

Upon entering, the visitor is greeted by a bright common space that is buzzing with life during and after school. Two central amphitheaters are the focal point that frames the main flows in the center.

The existing commonly used spaces do not encourage relations among the users. These spaces discourage unintentional encounters, thus, users of the kindergarden are not visible to each other.

The transformation has created new spaces and classrooms that can accommodate different groups of students. The transformation of spaces, rather than a corridor system, allows the integration of new methods into the learning process.

Uniform and closed group spaces do not allow the child to choose which space they want to be in. The segregation and closeness of the spaces encourages a lack of relationships with other users.

A variety of private and shared spaces allow students to choose their preferred learning environment. 

Project text provided by the project authors

Pictures by Viztinct Studio, Lusio Architects