Humans and dogs harmoniously co-exist at the Educan School for Dogs, Humans and Other Species, an example of animal architecture in a rural setting west of Madrid, Spain. The space, which is used to train dogs and is designed to encourage wildlife, aims to help restore the natural order of the local ecosystem, which the architects feel has been lost amid recent advances in urban development and an agriculture heavily reliant on pesticides.

Spanish architects Enrique Espinosa and Lys Villalba are the brains behind the project. They consider the changing nature of agricultural buildings – and how they could become more innovative – in their approach to the school, which aims to be ecological, following principles of sustainable architecture, through its use of materials and design.

Animal architecture, for dogs, birds, bats and more

building with green roof

The building puts animals, not humans, at the centre of a design that considers all aspects from an animal’s point of view. Floors are designed to be trodden by paws, not shoes, with a dog’s sensitive pads accounted for. In the two main classrooms, dogs and humans play games or develop their sporting prowess on soft, removable rolls of synthetic turf. In the theory classrooms, river pebbles become a semi-polished, exposed-aggregate concrete finish for a smooth, tactile experience.

The approach to materials keeps waste reduction in mind, with shipping containers offering shelter to animals, and metal off-cuts used to mould the concrete. Industrial metal sheet panels are a standardised size to ensure no wasteful remains, while automated air conditioning and manual control elements – such as the blinds and shutters – ensure the day-to-day running of the school is as energy efficient as possible.

yellow bench

It is an awareness carried through to animal-friendly, thoughtful details. Eye heights drop to an average viewpoint of half a metre. Openings are raised to discourage dogs from leaving or being distracted, and window shutters are arranged to offer shade to dogs passing below. Sound-absorbing pyramid-shaped foam insulation reduces the noise of barks, doggy discourses and echoes inside, making for a more harmonious atmosphere.

This example of animal architecture caters not only to dogs; other creatures, such as birds and bats, make themselves at home in the environment, thus contributing to the restoration of the local ecosystem. Rainwater from the roof is collected in large troughs for birds and dogs, while birds including owls and kestrels make their homes in the ‘nest façade’ of the upper floor. Sparrows favour the circular holes of the shipping container edges, while bats prefer the nests inside the 3D letters spelling ‘Educan’ on the building’s façade. §

green latter in this example of animal architecture
Exterior of a green building, Educan School for Dogs, Humans and Other Species
Green building round window at Educan School for Dogs, Humans and Other Species
green and blue interior of Educan School for Dogs, Humans and Other Species, an example of animal architecture