A fun place for kids
A nursery school can present itself as a “home”. This was the design assumption that kicked off this whole project. A special, particular house capable of expressing fundamental, common characteristics: to be welcoming, familiar, friendly and recognizable, so that children enjoy an environment that facilitates their experience and time spent in kindergarten, moving towards factors of inclusivity and sociality starting from the architecture, shapes and textures.
Following this underlying principle, this design won the competition launched in 2011 in a well-established South Tyrolean procedure for awarding public commissions. It won by exploring architecture’s ability to pursue the objective of achieving wellbeing in the various meanings of the term, whether it be material, perceptive, psychological. The building specifically renders the quality of proximity perceptible through a kind of simplification, almost a schematization of architectural style to facilitate a soft entrance into the world of school, through a form of architecture that refuses to renounce its own character yet at the same time addresses the goal of increasing pupils’ confidence through the school’s spaces and environments.
This building is one among many in the historic center of Sluderno, a municipality located in an Alpine valley in the province of Bolzano, and it defines its place in the built environment through an immediate outline. Its stylized profile with a two-pitched roof outlines a geometric shape that fits into the built environment without becoming an excessive formal exception; the evident materiality of the crinkly-finish plastered walls along with the equally material presence of limited portions of the façade faced with wooden slats constitute both quality of form and sensitivity. Significantly large window openings - larger than customary or traditional - are differentiated from one another to make up a free, asymmetrical arrangement that slots into the elevations, their presence accentuated by wooden sills that protrude out over the wall, serving as linear signs of materiality that mark and divide the light-colored surface of the plastered walls, while standing out visibly against the background of the wall. Another noteworthy feature on the second level (the school has two floors above ground), on the southwest elevation overlooking the inner garden, is the upper element of the frames which takes on a characteristic purpose, following in parallel the geometry of the pitch line, breaking up the image to propose a differentiated reading. To identify and make compatible recognizable traits and measured margins of an expressive process are the elements of a discourse that proceeds via fascinating cadenced traces, opening up space for discovery and connection via multiple relationships.
The school entrance looks out onto the small square set within the pedestrianized area: the southeast corner of the volume is hollowed out to form a small sheltered area, marked by wooden strip cladding on the closed wall, and the intrados of the slab to fashion a reception area next to the glass double door lead in to the interior space. At the northeastern tip of the trapezoidal plan, on the same side that runs along the public road, the same principle of standing firm applies: an excavation slightly empties the volume; here too, the wooden slats, which cover the wall and intrados surfaces of the slab, act as an accent of material, color and visual sensation. This is the secondary entrance, offering separate access via a short hallway to the pantry and kitchen area, a space not only reserved for distribution-related functions but also a nerve center for differentiated, recreational, collective, reception and social activities.
Similarly, a common space on the upper level leads in to the educational and service areas, and is itself a place for combinable activities. The layout of the teaching and support activity spaces, characterized by an aptitude for group work, is expressed on the ground floor through a multifunctional core that overlooks the inner garden through a large glass wall.
Here, the transition to the outside is sheltered and bounded by the wooden slatwork that marks out the main and accessory accesses to the school. The upper level, which is accessed via a staircase that rises hard by the northeast wall, framed within a balustrade of wooden slats, offers two more teaching spaces and relative support rooms.
On both floor levels, the classrooms benefit from optimal
south-west facing exposure, enjoying the most favorable natural lighting and views to the inner garden. The upper floor layout concludes with technical and staff rooms.
The interiors express an interpenetration of luminosity and materiality, articulating the relationship between the light
plaster-covered walls and the various types of wood (differing by finish and color), the slatted cladding for portions of the walls and ceiling, and slatted flooring in the educational spaces. All of these tonal variations and intersections of color map out different uses through an evocation of light and dimension that is almost tactile. The effect is like in a big house, full of spaces that we gradually explore through concrete, lived experience.
Location: Sluderno, Bolzano, Italy - Client: Municipality of Sluderno - Completion Date: 2018 - Total Area: 2,063 m2
Building Area: 998 m2 - Architect, Construction Management, Lighting and Furniture Design:
Roland Baldi Architects - Design Team: Harald Kofler, Sila Giriftinoglu, Elena Casati, Carlo Scolari
Structural: Andreas Erlacher - Mechanical Plant: Energytech - Electrical Plant: Reinhard Thaler
Text by Francesco Pagliari
Photography by Oskar Da Riz
All images courtesy of Roland Baldi Architects