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Primary school M. Lodi in Pratissolo

Municipality of Scandiano, Italy
Archisbang (Marco Giai Via, Silvia Minutolo)
structure_ Sertec, MEP_ Sertec, acoustics_ Arch. Chiara Devecchi 
1.260 m²

Educational architecture in Italy: From Emergency to Opportunity

Out of the 40.000 school buildings across the country, approximately 70% were constructed before 1975. The aging of these structures, their inadequate seismic safety, and poor energy performance present us with an emergency to manage.

However, they also offer a unique opportunity for renovating educational spaces. Adding to this, the trend to view schools as new civic centers equipped with quality amenities such as libraries, auditoriums, and communal spaces further enhances the significance of redevelopment as a pervasive catalyst for urban regeneration.

Torino Fa Scuola

From these considerations arises the challenge of the "Torino fa scuola" project, promoted and supported by Fondazione Agnelli and Compagnia di San Paolo, in collaboration with the Municipality of Turin and Fondazione per la Scuola. This initiative has allowed working on two emblematic case studies of Italian school heritage and testing an interesting prototype of public-private partnership to streamline procedures and optimize resources.

Enhancement and innovation

The project for the Pascoli School proposes an intervention model for a nineteenth-century building type, tackling the challenge of introducing innovative teaching within the walls of a protected historical building. This building is permeated with structural and cultural constraints, aiming to break down classroom barriers by transforming large distributive spaces into inhabited environments. The spatial design interprets and enriches the ambitions of the pedagogical project, enhancing the strengths of the existing building while addressing its challenges, prompting unconventional solutions to achieve goals and fulfill the desires of future occupants.

The creation of open, bright spaces, the emphasis on connectivity with the outside, and full accessibility are functional to the concept of continuous education, where the physical environment of the building serves the educational project and becomes an integral part of it. Serving as a reference point for students and the community alike, the school is an inclusive space characterized by a domestic and informal atmosphere—a welcoming home where the playful dimension of learning is rediscovered.

The rediscovered space

The project was guided by the intention to optimize the available space to accommodate all functions envisioned for the school's innovative and dynamic environment, while also enhancing the building's features often obscured by forced functional adaptations over the years.

The most significant interventions include: relocating and redesigning an accessible entrance, incorporating a mezzanine level dedicated to the library, paired with restoring the gym/conference hall to its original position in the building (formerly the educational space), modifying the section of the building's lateral wing, which was renovated in the mid-20th century, to create a large space for teachers in the attic, known as the teachers' loft, and adding a rooftop terrace to compensate for the lack of external space accessible to students.

School as a civic center

The atrium serves the functions of welcoming and directing flows, furnished with large folding round tables and soft furnishings.
It offers an informal, spacious, and flexible area designed for leisure, social interaction, group cooperative work, and as a welcoming identity space for users, enabled by relocating the entrance and installing a ramp staircase for full building accessibility.

The restoration of the gym reveals its coffered ceiling hidden for years by false ceilings, transforming the space from a gym area to a theater and conference hall with simple furnishings. The addition of a mezzanine for the library above new changing rooms and services fosters connectivity between spaces, creating a contemporary and evocative environment.

By repurposing the ground floor from purely educational functions, the space opens gradually to the public, potentially extending to upper floors with themed library rooms surrounding the central staircase void. This void, revitalized by reconsidering the emergency external stair system, regains its original role as the building's focal point.

The newly furbished corridors and equipped workshops further extend potential non-school use, including the rooftop terrace: a rediscovered garden for students and a spacious open area for public use when needed.

Learning everywhere

The classroom, internally flexible and equipped with a movable wall to double its space by annexing the adjacent room, remains a fundamental unit for educational activities. However, it opens up as much as possible to the outside, fostering a sense of school community through the use of transparency and visual continuity. The versatile and continuous space thus created allows for envisioning future pedagogical developments, where the traditional concept of a class group is completely surpassed in favor of using space in small groups or independently by students. This concept aligns well with addressing the health needs that have emerged during the current crisis.

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