Just north of Florence, a school built to a linear plan whose grounds and bottom floor are open to local people
Just north of the highway between Florence and Prato, in one of the most densely urbanized areas on the Florentine Plain, is an area crowded with universities and research centers arranged in a checkerboard pattern corresponding to the still visible ancient farmland. Settanta7 designed this new high school among the fields, farmhouses, business incubators, and universities of Sesto Fiorentino with the firm conviction – as demonstrated by its many previous educational projects – that contemporary architecture can be an extraordinary vehicle for education.
Built on an elongated plot of former agricultural land that adjoins a research and business center and an ancient rural chapel, the new school has been named after Italian partisan Anna Maria Enriques Agnoletti. Reflecting the elongated shape of the lot, the new school has three blocks, two for teaching and one for the gym.
The longer frontages of the site, to the southeast and northwest, are punctuated by courtyards that are partly open to the surrounding landscape. Hollowed out from the built volume, these spaces also frame the views from inside. The design of the courtyards reflects the lines of the ancient rural roads and the rustic church nearby, their orientation also ensuring a good amount of natural light inside the building.
The building itself has three aboveground levels in the area of the southern courtyard and two near the northern one. A slight rotation of the levels where they overlook the courtyards creates terraces with green roofs, which, besides providing additional spaces for students, contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of the new construction.
Intended to lay the foundations for making the school a community center, the ground-level floor is open to the public and comprises an auditorium, cafeteria, library, offices, and workshops. The classrooms are on the upper levels. There are numerous spaces designed to encourage informal interaction between students and teachers. Others reflect the school’s innovative educational approach based around creativity, entrepreneurship, and cooperation. Circulation areas are fluid and flexible to allow for the unexpected, while additional spaces have been designed to foster exchange and learning outside the classroom.
The building’s façades are designed to have different personalities: to the west, which overlooks more open spaces, there are more transparent surfaces than reflective metal ones, creating an impression of openness and welcome. To the east, which faces university buildings with a sober, functional appearance, the proportion of opaque to transparent surfaces is reversed.
With its courageous contemporary design, this school is a place that reflects the core values of community living: transparency, flexibility, and cooperation.
Location: Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
Client: Città Metropolitana di Firenze with Lilly Italia S.p.a.
Built up area (school): 7.587 m2
Built up area (gymnasium): 1.474 m2
Lead Architects: Daniele Rangone, Elena Rionda, Matteo Valente
Engineering: STAIN engineering, ICIS
Landscape: Geol. Maria Angela Botta
Acoustics: Ing. Walter Moniaci
Collaborators: ATS SERVIZI Studio Associato
Suppliers: Schüco Italia, Pellini
Photography by Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Studio Settanta7