IE University’s two campuses all have their own unique atmosphere. In a recent podcast, we focused on the Segovia campus, located in the former Convent of Santa Cruz la Real.

While this impressive building boasts centuries of history, it’s also home to high-tech facilities such as the Media Lab and the Creativity Center. In a recent podcast, we explored the sustainable transformation of this historic building into a modern campus and discovered what makes Segovia such a special place to live and study.

From convent to campus: 800 years of history

The Convent of Santa Cruz was built in 1218 and was the first Dominican convent in Spain. Support for the Dominicans in Segovia grew steadily—in 1290 King Alfonso X of Castile set up an annual donation to the monastery, which continued for decades. During the reign of the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, the monastery was granted royal status. 

By the end of the 16th century, the monastery started to become a center for education and learning. Study was mandatory for the Dominicans, and a school was created for the young friars. However, during the social and economic reforms of the 19th century, the monastery was converted into a hospice and nursing home, later becoming an orphanage.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were a series of fires in the building, and it was consequently abandoned. It was not until 2006 that renovations took place and the monastery was converted into the IE University Segovia Campus building. An ambitious remodeling of the campus—led by the renowned architect Fernando Serrano-Suñer, also responsible for the IE Tower—was completed in 2007. 

Preserving a long tradition of learning

Although the function of the building has changed over the years, it’s a fitting tribute to its creators that it has now returned to its original function, as a place of learning. “This place has always been a place for ideas,” notes Miguel Larrañaga, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs at IE University. “I think today we are approaching a circle—800 years later, we are offering new degrees for young people. The new use of the building is perfect.”

“A good building can be repurposed. It lives: it’s not a museum piece. It keeps its core even when it changes its function”

David Goodman, Associate Dean of IE School of Architecture and Design.

“Every little corner of our campus tells a story,” says Iôna de Macêdo, Academic Director of the Bachelor in Communication and Digital Media. “It’s as if we’re stepping into a magical space. If Harry Potter were from Southern Europe, this would be Hogwarts.” David Goodman agrees: “There’s language in this building—there are all sorts of ways the building is communicating with us.”

A high-tech, sustainable environment

One of the challenges posed by the renovation has been to integrate 21st-century technology into the building while preserving its historic features and atmosphere. Iôna de Macêdo feels that “the passage of time has made this building sustainable,” seeing it as the physical embodiment of the concept of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’.

“We found the building in a great condition,” says Fernando Serrano-Suñer, “which meant we had an important economy of resources at our disposal.” The lighting system was renovated, making the building more energy-efficient, and the ultimate goal is 100% renewable energy, to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Efficiency sensors for lighting and heating systems and water have also been introduced. 

“Sustainability is also about taking care of traditions, of culture, of preserving, of giving a second life to things”

Isabela del Alcázar, Global Head of Sustainability at IE University.

“As a university, our purpose is driving positive change through education, research and innovation,” explains Isabela del Alcázar. “We want to drive that positive change by positively impacting the environment, the people and of course the set of rules, the integrity that drives all the processes.” 

Segovia: a city where the past is always present

“This is a place that feels like a space for reflection, notes David Goodman, adding that the atmosphere in Segovia is very different from that of a big city. “If I open a window in my classroom, I hear the river, I hear birds. I don’t consider that noise pollution: I consider it a connection to the place.” In addition to the historical buildings of Segovia, the presence of nature also contributes to what Iôna de Macêdo describes as the “sense of timelessness” which forges a connection with the past. “There’s a very special feeling that we come from somewhere and are going somewhere,” she says. 

“I asked one of my students to describe the essence of Segovia in one word. She said ‘magic’”

David Goodman

Miguel Larrañaga also remarks on this sense of continuity, pointing out that underneath the building are the remains of a Roman house. For him, this is a symbol not only of the convent, but of the history of Segovia and also of “the impact that this community of IE University students has on the city of Segovia.”

A place for connection and community

As Miguel points out, the city of Segovia has also been transformed by the presence of IE University. Students have become actively involved in projects which modernize and improve the lives of local residents. Isabela del Alcázar emphasizes that the university wants to foster sustainable behavior, which has led to the creation of community initiatives around sustainability.

“The Creativity Center is a way for students to establish a dialogue with the community”

Iôna de Macêdo

The Segovia campus is not an isolated ivory tower, but a place that is open to dialogue and interaction. Exhibitions at the Creativity Center, for example, are open to the public and contribute to the cultural life of the city. Miguel Larrañaga feels that the presence of IE University students is “probably the most important cultural and economic impact that this city has had for the last 500 years.”

In contrast to larger cities, Segovia has a pace of living that encourages you to form deep connections—with your fellow students and with the local community. As well as exploring the history and traditions of the area, you can enjoy the numerous cafés, bars and restaurants. Studying in Segovia offers you boundless opportunities for an enriching experience, both inside and outside the classroom.

To find out more about life at our Segovia campus, check out our guide to studying in Segovia.