A Road in the Sky. Creating a sense of community and place
Designed by Claudio Lucchin & Architetti Associati, the Dante Broglio primary school in Colognola ai Colli, near Verona,
north-east Italy, has now been inaugurated, and pupils can walk, run, and play over the broad green pathway that leads from the entrance up onto the roof.
At one end, the new school building reaches down to the ground; at the other, it rises up into the air like the loose end of a ribbon fluttering in the wind. The prism-shaped free tip of the ribbon creates a shaded ground level area that serves as an outdoor theater. At the other end, the sloping green roof reaches down to the school entrance. Inside, a large airy atrium welcomes visitors. On one side, the vertical distribution system, on the other, a corridor leading to the ground floor sections, including multifunctional and special-needs classrooms. A system of corridors connects the various spaces, creating a walkway through the whole building, widening out at intervals to form a series of different sized open public “squares” where pupils can congregate and socialize freely. Large glazed windows in large timber frames help give a sense of orientation, linking the classrooms proper with the public corridor space. The variety of type and size of the teaching areas and the bold colors along the circulation paths help give the school a relaxed friendly atmosphere. Symmetry has here given way to diversity, repetition to surprise, and rigidity to playfulness. The result is a place of creativity and imagination.
With a surface area of 2,600 sq. m, this horizontally developed prism-shaped building provides for all the educational, recreational and staff requirements of a primary school. Several strategies have been adopted to blend the new building with the surrounding landscape. First of all, its size. Massing is proportional to the standard plots of the little town’s historic center. In addition, the building’s strikingly assertive geometry avoids the rigid orthogonal block usually associated with school buildings, giving it a distinctive visual identity; this helps blend the architecture into the surrounding landscape, the organic form flowing into the nearby hills and fields to the south, forming an intermediary boundary between natural and man-made systems. From a distance, you cannot make out where the edges of the building finish and the countryside begins. The building’s position and orientation - aligned with the axis between the main village church and the cemetery - also contribute to making the new structure part of its context.
The building’s geometry creates a secluded central courtyard that opens out to the valley below. This protected but at the same time open space sums up the essence of what a school should be. The adjacent full-height glazed façade pulls in light and air and evaporates the divide between inside and out. At night, the façade becomes a glowing lantern, taking on a dematerialized, almost ethereal appearance. The continuous green swathe from the entrance up to the roof also has environmental benefits for the building below, providing insulation and reducing the
heat-island effect. Both these factors have helped give the building an excellent energy rating. In sum, as a compact new “neighborhood”, the school adds a unifying dimension to this small rural area, bringing together the energy and enthusiasm of young children with the quiet traditions of a farming community, in a place where innovation and sedimentation can co-exist.
The school’s overall design provides an improved learning environment. Not only a key architectural feature, the unrestricted exterior space also plays a social function, creating a unique sense of community both within the school precinct and beyond as it flows into the fields, allotments and gardens outside the perimeter walls. The first photographs of the site show it has become a place of lively social exchange. The school is an all-important place that shapes the social relations of young children. The primary school in Colognola ai Colli gives them a very good start.
Location: Colognola ai Colli, Verona, Italy - Client: Municipality of Colognola ai Colli - Completion Date: 2019
Gross Floor Area: 2,641 m2 - Costs: 4,767,000 Euros - Architect: CL&AA | Claudio Lucchin & Architetti Associati
Design Team: Daniela Varnier, Angelo Rinaldo, Marco Mozzarelli, Roberto Gionta, Michele Capra - Construction Management: Claudio Lucchin - Main Contractors: Mak Costruzioni, Ma.Cos.
Structural: Fabio Giannici - Electrical and Mechanical, Safety Coordination: BRN Engineering
Aluminum Façade System and Windows: Schüco
Text by Stamatina Kousidi
Photography by Paolo Riolzi
Portrait image courtesy of CL&AA | Claudio Lucchin & Architetti Associati