Sustainable, affordable school building sets example for children and community alike
Ponzano Primary School is designed for 375 children aged from 6 to 10. It houses 15 classrooms and special spaces for art, music, computer, language and science, a gymnasium, a canteen and a library. The search for medium scale but heightened interventions in the territory of the sprawl, of which Ponzano is part, brought the architects' attention to investigating the role of school buildings in contemporary settings.
School buildings are matter of interest for different reasons. They are small and have a character of dispersion: they follow the logic of sprawl and their presence is compulsory in relation to the distance of the inhabitants: this is why they can have again the role of nodes in the suburban realm. Their program looks very specific but instead needs to be open as the building can be activated by the community after the school hours.
Schools are spaces where a multi-cultural experiences is compulsory and happens naturally; they are familiar, small scale, easily accessible buildings and we imagine them as coloured nodes in the grey city of dispersion. They are usually low-budget buildings and for this reason affordable in a moment of economic crises. PPS aims to meet all these premises.
The architects engaged the community in the design of the school through story-telling and workshops with the kids. The design focuses on collective spaces. Firstly, in the general outline, all spaces are gathered around a central square, memory of the monastic cloisters, places of knowledge preservation. Then, in section, all the spaces face each other and are reflected by the transparent and coloured walls.
Intervisibility favours the exchanging of knowledge, experience and socialisation. The school becomes a 'society building', a space of possible multiethnic exchange and comparison. It becomes a threshold, a contemporary 'landscape of memory'.
During the design phase C+S worked to include the community in the design process. The design of the elevations is a thin filigree. It sews together the roof and the ground and transforms the elevation in a deeper threshold, designed by the shadows of the red bend pillars on the wood and glass wall inside the arcade, where all the classrooms are opened towards.
The arcade is also the screen against the sun together with a system of rolling curtains (mounted on a metallic structure) which automatically unroll under the control of the BMS system. Due to its huge volume, the gymnasium has been dug into the ground and natural light is brought inside, modelling the ground with new enbankments.
Thanks to a judicious orientation, thick insulation, a green roof and sophisticated technologies (geothermal heating, photovoltaic panels, natural ventilation chimneys, BMS: building automation system) the school consumes only 3.6 kWh/mc/year, reaching the Italian Class A+ efficiency rating with a building cost of only 960 euro /sq m, including furniture.