Schools are fundamental in the lives of children, critical spaces for learning and social engagement as they grow towards adulthood. This makes designing a school a unique architectural challenge as the designer must understand what children need as they mature and the conditions that will truly favor learning. Delving deeply into this blend of culture, education and architecture was precisely the challenge the BDR bureau architecture practice willingly accepted when it tackled the complete overhaul of the Fermi School in Turin. The design for the renovation was the winner of the 2016 "Torino Fa Scuola" international architecture competition, standing out for its focus on the two building users, namely the children and the local inhabitants of this stretch of land between the River Po and the Lingotto district of Turin.
The architects deliberately sought to overturn how the school was perceived by both the pupils and the people living in the area. At the heart of this was the addition of green spaces and functional, easily accessible areas that would transform this dull educational structure into a true community school. In practice, BDR bureau's approach was to add ground-floor facilities, effectively creating a civic center open to all, with a gym, a library, an auditorium and a canteen. These elements are spread around a central entrance lobby that is accessible both via the large flight of steps leading off Piazza Carlo Giacomini and the new entrance on Via Casimiro Sperino, once the rear entrance. The latter side was also the epicenter for much of the work to change the perception of the school, such as the addition of trees and lawn, and the creation of a habitable building envelope behind which are small terraces that lead off the classrooms relocated to the upper two floors.
The compositional effect is formed by the metal frame and wires that create varying degrees of transparency and a sense of dynamic interaction between the new additions and the historic building. The use of uniform color, but different textures adds depths and changes the look of the old building to create deliberate connections to the new sections. The underlying idea of linking the old and new extends to the concept of connecting the interiors and exteriors, with the large windows overlooking the courtyard having been maintained and the new frame on ground level having been minimized to increase visual permeability. This approach helps to physically take education outside of the classrooms into those spaces designed to facilitate dialogue, interaction and an exchange of ideas between teachers and pupils.
Location: Turin, Italy
Client: Fondazione Agnelli, Compagnia di San Paolo
Gross Floor Area: 5,096 m2
Costs of Construction: 7,300,000 Euros
Architect: BDR bureau
Principal Designers: Alberto Bottero, Simona Della Rocca
Main Contractor: D'Engineering
Structural and Construction and Design Project Manager: Sintecna
Electrical and Mechanical: Proeco
Sustainability and Acoustics: Onleco
Project Manager: FCA Partecipazioni
Photography: © BDR Bureau and © Simone Bossi, courtesy of BDR Bureau
BDR bureau is a young architectural practice based in Turin that was founded in 2016 by Alberto Bottero and Simona Della Rocca. The practice has designed projects ranging from temporary structures to urban solutions, both through winning architecture competitions and commissions from private and public entities. The concepts of reusing and re-adapting working, living and educational spaces are central to the practice's philosophy. In essence, this means a design starts with a broad understanding of the location and context, looking for ways in which seeming limitations can be transformed into opportunities. Then, as a design develops, it inevitably entails the search for spatial solutions grounded in an open, simple and surprising architectural paradigm that truly provides options for the contemporary age. The practice and architects have already achieved recognition in various international competitions: Torino Fa Scuola (2017), Kodrina masterplan (2016), Esporre il Compasso D'oro (2014), and YAP MAXXI (2013). The designs have also been displayed in international settings (including MAXXI in Rome, Moma PSY in NY, Istanbul Modern in Turkey, and Constructo in Santiago, Chile) and in leading trade magazines. BDR bureau has also taken part in the Venice Biennale of Architecture twice: in 2016, in the Venice Pavilion, with a vision of the future of Porto Margheram and in 2018, in the Italy Pavilion, with research into the reuse of train stations.
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