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“Akvarelli” School Complex

A school in the form of a village

Olla Architecture

“Akvarelli” School Complex
By Luca Maria Francesco Fabris -

School buildings catering for pre-school through to junior high school children offer contemporary architecture practitioners greater research and experimentation freedom than many other typologies as they adapt to educational methods, which, although positing the same goals, can be conducted in buildings organized in very different ways. Added to that, school buildings are very often not just educational establishments but also the expression of a community, the first building block of a new urban system, town or metropolitan-district redevelopment scheme. Schools, in fact, have a dual “educational” role, the first vis-à-vis the young generations, the second reaching out to the wider community. Their social function is reflected in and consolidated by the educational and architectural model adopted. This in turn will determine not only the school’s physical structure but also its function within its urban context, often making it the secular hub of the community’s social life.

This was the case for Forssa, a small Finnish town about 100 km
north of Helsinki that over the last few post-industrial decades, has – like all decentralized urban centers in Finland – seen its population dwindle. Faced with the dilemma of either sustaining exorbitant costs to maintain several separate schools or amalgamate them into one facility, the local authorities chose the second option, concentrating the three levels of Finland’s primary education system in a single structure. Budgetary savings was not the only objective, however. The plan also aimed to trigger a strategic “new beginning” for a town whose population had fallen to just over 16,000 by attracting young families with children with the inducement of a top-quality school.

The project – entrusted to Helsinki-based Olla Architecture –
was immediately named Monikylä (multivillage), since the large...

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