The Campus Symbiosis of ICS Milan International School is part of the Symbiosis area, the Covivio Business District which, south of the Prada Foundation in Milan's Porta Romana area, already houses the headquarters of major international companies. The only one of the major transformation projects underway in Milan not to be based on residential buildings, this district brings together telecommunications, biomedical, environmental and energy companies: the new school will therefore be able to exchange and interact with the future that is being built around it, and with another great example of excellence, the Parco Agricolo Sud, a thousand-year-old example of the great technological transformation of nature through agriculture.
ICS Milan International School is the first school dedicated to children and young people from 0 to 18 years old, offering an international curriculum enhanced by a teaching method that develops the fundamentals of design in terms of project method and collaborative learning.
The Campus is a project by the Barreca & La Varra, which handled the entire project, including the concept, architectural design (schematic, final and construction) and artistic direction, as well as interior design and landscape design. In defining the interior design and the outdoor spaces, the studio also involved current students from the ICS Milan offices and young people from Milan high schools in workshops that led to a stimulating contamination of design ideas, responding to the needs of the building's future users.
The building faces north: it looks towards Europe. It has a very recognisable identity shape, and is wrapped in a fluid system of curves that envelops the whole. The lot on which it stands is not large, so the project has compressed the volumes and spaces as much as possible to create a "vertical school", in which interior spaces with double and triple heights and exterior spaces such as terraces and loggias follow one after the other, "climbing" the building. The resulting plurality of collective spaces offers students the possibility of moving freely inside the building, which is not just a box containing traditional classrooms, but an organism where vertical spaces join and connect to horizons of outdoor spaces on all floors.
The ground floor, where the internal collective activities (canteen, gymnasium, swimming pool and auditorium) open up to the city and to the large outdoor playground equipped for open-air activities (athletics track and multi-purpose sports field), is connected to the top of the building by extremely rich spatialities, characterised by strong internal verticality. On the outside, of particular importance is the role of the auditorium roof, which is used as a recreational area in continuity with the interior spaces, with a covered part that allows shelter from the rain. This terrace is also connected to the one on the first floor (the roof of the indoor sports areas in connection with the canteen), which in turn is connected by a monumental staircase to the outdoor playground. The two terraces are connected both visually and materially by the shell, which near the opening on the ground floor between the auditorium and the gymnasium is interrupted to create an open-air space, a tree-lined patio, which increases the amount of light and air entering the ground floor. The building's internal spatiality makes it possible to maintain visual contact between activities at all times, through transparent walls defining both indoor and outdoor spaces, even at different heights.
The school cycles housed (equivalent to sezione primavera e scuola dell’infanzia, primaria, secondaria di primo e secondo grado) are organised upwards on the third, fourth and fifth floors, to offer older students a wider and deeper horizon. The configuration of the standard floor is a double body with a central distribution, along which there is access to all the school areas and services. The corridor, however, is not only conceived as a link between different areas, but as a place to stop that promotes sociability among the students of the different classes: the "compression and decompression" of this space is achieved through a non-constant section and coloured wooden panelling that create equipped walls and design "lounges" near the entrances to the classrooms. At the end of the corridors, special rooms - including a circular one equipped with bookshelves - have been created, which take light from the "cuts" in the envelope and create more intimate and silent social environments that can also be used by teachers. Large glass surfaces and finely worked metals allow the façades to interact with their surroundings, reacting in an iridescent way. The view of the façade is enriched by a three-dimensional treatment of the glass façade, which is set on two different planes, interacting with the sunlight and reflections of the context in different ways depending on the depth. The body, an element of unity in the project, is made of a sophisticated sheet metal with a double process (stretching and subsequent crumpling) which varies its appearance according to the proximity of the observer; it constitutes a covering plane when seen from a long distance, an iridescent and brilliant filter when observed from close up in its interaction with the sun. The structure is a mix of steel and concrete, and was designed to optimise construction time, with prefabricated areas (auditorium, gymnasium and floor slabs) and areas built on site to adapt precisely to the shape of the building.
The construction site, despite the health emergency that came during the work, gave shape to the project in just 14 months: after the flag was laid on the roof on 19/12/2019, the Campus was inaugurated on 17/12/2020.
Barreca & La Varra architectural studio was founded in 2008 in Milan by Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra. Over the years the studio has acquired national and international prominence by carrying out numerous projects in the field of urban and architectural design, participating in competitions and carrying out public and private assignments for important Italian and foreign groups. Headquarters of important companies, residential and social housing complexes, as well as collective buildings such as hospitals and schools, have received recognition in Italy and abroad. The studio is characterised by constant attention to the experimentation of a complex architectural and urban language, attentive to the changing articulations of contemporary society and the complexity of the economic, social and institutional processes that today produce the city, the territory and the environment, with particular attention to the relationship between architecture and nature.
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