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Steps to school 

PROGRAM  ︎  School hall rehabilitation
CLIENT  ︎ Orientat Association for Icușeni Secondary School
SITE︎  Icușeni village, Victoria commune, Iași county, România

AREA  ︎  74 sqm

STATUS ︎ Concept | 2020

DESIGN TEAM ︎ APLUSNOIMA ︎ Ștefania Borș, Alexandra Berdan, Ancuța Costandache

TEXT  ︎ Oana Filip,  Alexandra Berdan,  Ștefania Borș

Located in Victoria, Iași county, the school in question faces a high level of dropouts, especially among families with many children. 5th and 6th grade students are the ones who give up education the most because they help their parents with household chores.

school hall ︎

The Orientat Association is, above all, the weapon through which two sisters, Marinela and Mona, try to come up with solutions to all kinds of problems around us, everyone. They have a special sensitivity to the challenges in the social area, especially those related to education.

With over 20 years of experience in accessing funding, they have managed to support many initiatives that have made the lives of vulnerable groups better. The school in Icușeni is part of a larger initiative and is one of the most recent projects we have joined.

Marinela and Mona capitalized on the fact that there are funds dedicated in this direction, so they applied and obtained funding to prevent children from dropping out.

In all this, they were hit by several shortcomings of the children in question. They realized that there were many unmet needs, some of which were related to the poorly used space in the Icușeni School.

They turned to several architects from Iași, but our involvement remained constant throughout. Moreover, we hope to support the implementation of the architectural solutions we have proposed in this context.

school plan ︎

proposed hall plan ︎

The needs we identified in our visits to the School in Icușeni are extremely clear and can be summarized in two main directions: the need for harmonious development through play and learning and the need to optimize the access hall space, so as to accommodate the most diverse activities.

The school hall is the only common space for all students. It is the place where they change their shoes and leave their clothes in the morning, where they spend their breaks in the cold seasons and where they hold celebrations or festivities. This makes it the most functional and representative space at the same time.

The need to find the most diverse forms of furniture and storage of objects - from teaching materials to small furniture, from clothes to shoes, seemed the most acute and urgent. In order to accommodate various scenarios, the furnishing of the hallway had to be easy to change.

operating scenarios ︎

School break

School celebration

Parents meeting

In order to optimize implementation costs and execution times, we wanted to solve the functional problems of the hall with a single piece of furniture.

The first step was to rethink the space and rearrange the activities in it, placing them successively: the access area and locker room is followed by the space for exploration and learning.

We made the separation by placing a mobile step, which "opens" to the widest space of the hall and to the access area in the classrooms. Thus, the step piece becomes the central object of the room, fulfilling its purpose as a separator and catalyst at the same time.

axonometric views︎


At the same time, the kindergarten becomes the "heart" of the school, the place that can gather children to play during breaks or study during special hours, but also parents and teachers at celebrations and festivities.

The steps are, first of all, a large closet. At the back, it has storage spaces for clothes and work materials, as well as a bench, and on the side it offers storage areas for temporary objects in the room, which are used contextually, such as chairs and tables.

mobile step  details︎

Steps to school is not just a metaphor for how students spend their time on breaks, but a pretext around which we have built an entire universe.

Due to the steps, the steps become a symbol in itself, a place that invites dialogue, discovery, play, awards and celebration, but also listening and understanding. It belongs to the students and teachers as much as it can to the parents at certain key moments in the life of the school and implicitly of the children.

The proposed concept shows care for the needs of children, but also for the financial potential of the entire project. The simple gestures we used ensure ease of implementation and optimization of all necessary resources.

perspective view ︎

The lobby takes the form of a flexible and welcoming space, where a wide range of activities can be carried out at will, and during breaks between classes, a playground, which children can explore as they wish.

In addition, the walls receive a more cheerful appearance by coloring them and turning them into an exhibition area. From drawings to handicrafts, from photos to small installations, they can function as a kind of gallery that everyone can admire.

elevation views ︎

perspective view ︎


We are pleased to get involved in such volunteer efforts through which with simple interventions we (re) build more worlds, to make life better, or at least gentler, for those who live in them.

As for Marinela and Mona, their motivation to continue the bureaucratic hustle and bustle is, above all, emotional, which makes all the effort worth admiring.

Let's see changes in what we do, whether we are talking about children who choose a profession in accordance with themselves, or we see the brilliance in their eyes when they learn to make tiramisu themselves or the aha moments of mothers who come to parenting classes.
- Marinela

The school in Icușeni is a standard project carried out during the Nastase government, which means that the proposed solution can be implemented in all projects made at that time. If you know people who could benefit from our work, please let us know. Together, we can make Steps to school  really benefit students.

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