Competition "SCUOLE INNOVATIVE" | Mario Caruso

Syracuse / Italy / 2017

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A. Articulation of the design idea and description of the work
The suggestion underlying this project is that transmitted by the image of the sails of trireme sails in the Greek sea of Syracuse which, detached from the force of the north-east wind, arrive on the mainland and become entangled among the arid brambles.
These sails take shape in the roofs of building volumes and protect and preserve, as in an incubator, the evolving knowledge of students who underneath them will live educational, playful and life experiences.
In contrast to the concept of "school-building", the complex has been conceived as a campus that includes school buildings, canteen, library, administrative offices and gymnasium, imagined as autonomous objects that relate to each other according to needs.
The three buildings designed to accommodate kindergarten, primary school and upper secondary school of the first grade, have been designed as simple but functional bodies, favouring solar orientation and designed both to accommodate activities between classes and contiguous sections of the same cycle, and to allow continuity between different cycles by offering flexible spaces, i. e. able to model themselves to meet the needs of different teaching requirements.
The building that houses the offices and the canteen is a bipartite volume with an extremely rigorous shape, surmounted by a light, cocoon-shaped volume, a metaphor of the chrysalis/child that with the study is transformed into a butterfly/individual, which houses the library and reading room. In this body, the spaces dedicated to sociality, reflection and meditation are of great importance: on the ground floor, in fact, there is a small cafeteria, while in the roof there is a garden, an external extension of the reading room.
The building that completes the complex encloses a multifunctional space that houses sports and theatrical activities.

B. Design indications
1. Respect for safety with particular attention to the seismic aspect

Particular attention has been paid to the choice of construction typology and materials, as well as to the architectural conformation best suited to ensure the stability of buildings. The buildings are supported by a reinforced concrete foundation and seismic insulators, and are made of a steel supporting structure in elevation and roofing.
All single elevation buildings are easily accessible to disabled people, while the library is accessible via a safe and comfortable lift.

2. Wellness
The fruition of the school complex takes place through a continuous discovery of the spaces that expand and restrict in function of use but that allow those who cross them to always feel at ease and eager for new and always different experiences.
Students, lecturers, non-teaching staff, as well as residents of this residential area, do not suffer the effects of noise pollution from urban traffic. Within the school buildings, particular attention is also paid to the use of materials to absorb sound waves in order to avoid annoying reverberations of sound.
Natural light never penetrates directly into the rooms to avoid glare, but the large windows in the north provide ample room lighting requirements. All the green spaces, including those belonging to the canteen and offices, allow you to "live" nature outside the classrooms or offices, creating harmonious spaces in which to interact with the vegetable component. The natural appearance of the plants that make up the perimeter hedgerows, with their different gradient of vegetation, visually cancel the boundary, causing the distinct sensation of being in a clearing, in the middle of a forest.

3. Energy and environmental sustainability
The whole school complex, in line with a bioclimatic approach to design, has been oriented along an east-west axis in order to optimize the solar contribution to reduce, and almost cancel, the energy needs of buildings.
The construction of the wall of Trombe allows to accumulate the external heat and transfer it inside in winter and vice versa in summer thanks to the consistency of the wall itself and the opening and closing of the openings.
The building envelope is properly insulated and, through a natural ventilation system, it ensures thermal well-being without affecting energy consumption. The office and canteen coverage has improved in terms of climate, acoustics and environmental impact, with a roof-garden.
The recovery of rainwater, accumulated by falling into tanks, is planned in order not to disperse this asset and to have available a useful resource for irrigation of the garden. The lighting is entirely provided by LED bulbs. The electrical energy required is produced by a 100kw wind turbine shaft with multiple vertical axes and by 30kw solar panels on the car park canopies.

The choice of vegetation, in addition to the high decorative value of leaves or flowers, also responds to precise criteria of environmental and economic sustainability such as rusticity, absence of harmfulness, resistance to pollutants and easy maintenance. In this latter regard, the soil will be covered with coverings, which, with a strong covering action, due to the natural appearance that pushes them to extend horizontally, hinder the formation of weeds, reducing maintenance costs.

4. Life cycle
Every material used (steel, glass, stone, stone, gypsum fibre plasterboards, sheet metal, wood) can be easily disposed of or reused after it has been discarded, since it is laid "dry", which saves a considerable amount of time.

C. Correspondence of the project to pedagogical needs and requests for educational innovation
Aware that architecture is at the service of didactics, it was decided to develop a project that encouraged the meeting at various levels: the neighbourhood with the school, parents and teachers, the pupils of the various classes among them, to encourage growth according to the principle of direct and sensory experiences. Learning environments become more flexible areas and less linked to the classic frontal lesson scheme. In the classrooms of the kindergarten and the first two classes of the primary school, for example, the mobile and soundproofed walls promote moments of encounter and exchange of experiences among children, while the blind walls are used as "white sheets" on which one can express oneself creatively. Children's communication, creativity and sociality increase making them spend more time outside. That's why the gardens of each school building become "outdoor classrooms" in which to understand, playing or simply observing the cycles of nature: species with different posture, with the colors of different leaves and flowers, evergreen and deciduous, mark the rhythm of the seasons. The vegetable garden of the primary school is a game where to plant, dig, water and harvest, which brings children closer to nature, linking science, food education and ecology together: it will be, in fact, also possible to create the compost with waste from the garden, dried leaves or dried flowers. The kindergarten garden is an ecosystem, designed to accommodate butterflies, in which nursery plants such as the Buddleja davidii (butterflies tree) and other plants with prolonged flowering will be planted so as to make the garden attractive from spring to late autumn. Educational, creative and socialization games, realized with recycled and recyclable materials, complete the space.

D. Projected participation path
The campus is part of a context without community services, so it is necessary to create a system that, considering the different needs of the inhabitants, becomes the beating heart of the entire neighborhood.
The real novelty, in fact, is the participation of the neighborhood's inhabitants inside the campus beyond
School hours: this is a public school during the morning and cultural centre during the afternoon and evening hours, which offers the community services and various activities able to involve various target groups and age groups. Thus the gym becomes an area for theatrical performances or assemblies, a space for temporary exhibitions, or sports events; the library is a place for literary and philosophical dissertations; the cafeteria and roof-garden areas where you can spend moments of rest or pure relaxation.

E. Urban planning and opening up of school spaces to the territory
The project site is located in an area of the new city north of Syracuse between the Greek Scala streets.
and Apple trees. The lot is bordered to the north by via Brancato, on which there is a parking lot for school staff and also for community use; to the south it is closed by another property; to the east, via Lauricella, it is bordered by a thick hedgerow impenetrable to the eyes; to the west, on via Gozzo, there are bus stops, bicycle racks and access to the campus.
From the south entrance, mainly dedicated to children, we cross the undulating path-game path.
from which one can glimpse the colourful gardens of the schools. Access to the north, which is also open during extracurricular hours, leads to the elliptical agora, the hub of activities on the campus.
The portion of the lot between the two entrances, a hinge between the campus and the neighborhood to which it is sold, represents a virtuous model of sustainable urban regeneration to be inspired by the design interventions.

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    A. Articulation of the design idea and description of the workThe suggestion underlying this project is that transmitted by the image of the sails of trireme sails in the Greek sea of Syracuse which, detached from the force of the north-east wind, arrive on the mainland and become entangled among the arid brambles.These sails take shape in the roofs of building volumes and protect and preserve, as in an incubator, the evolving knowledge of students who underneath them will live educational,...

    Project details
    • Year 2017
    • Work started in 2016
    • Work finished in 2017
    • Status Competition works
    • Type Parks, Public Gardens / Social Housing / Schools/Institutes / Colleges & Universities / Fitness Centres / Student Halls of residence
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