LOCATION Vignola, Modena, Italy
YEAR 2008
THEME Architecture, Education spaces, Educational complex
STATUS Project
DESIGNERS Antonio Monestiroli, Tomaso Monestiroli, Massimo Ferrari, Claudia Tinazzi 
TEAM Federica Farina, Guido Rivai 

A school is an institution in which life takes place similar to that of an urban community. The place in which it is located, just as in a city, must make evident the relationships between its component buildings. From individual classrooms, where pupils gather to carry out their activities together with teachers, to laboratories where several classes carry out practical activities in different areas, to collective places such as the cafeteria, gymnasium or auditorium where different classes meet to carry out common activities, to the central place that relates all parts making the system intelligible. The place of the new school complex in Vignola therefore will be analogous to an urban place, a small town, with its elementary part, the classroom and its collective buildings, the canteen,the gymnasium,the auditorium.

All these elements of the school will be located in a forest and distributed around a large clearing (the central meadow) to which everyone will refer. The meadow will be the central place of the school, which will become the place of the views of the whole school. In this way, those who attend the school, recognizing its individual parts and their relationships, will recognize a community and feel part of it. He will acquire the sense of belonging that is proper to every citizen.
The element of relationship between the classrooms and between them and the collective places (auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium) is a long gallery that differs from a simple corridor in its different dimensions and environmental qualities. The gallery, in our design, is intended as a linear, bright, well-ventilated space that is visually open to the forest in which the school is located and to the meadow that is its central place.
Along these linear paths there is a continuous experience of the place where the school is located. These paths, constructed of iron and glass, are three stories high. On the ground and second floors they connect classrooms and laboratories. The second floor is totally devoted to skylights on both sides. Leaning against these large distribution elements are the bodies of classrooms and laboratories, which have a different character. Constructed of exposed brick masonry, they define enclosed, self-contained places where pupils can concentrate on the various activities they carry out within them. The gymnasium and cafeteria are two self-contained buildings placed frontally on the two short sides of the large central lawn, in a dominant position with respect to the system. A clear hierarchy is established by their placement on the same axis of lawn symmetry. These buildings, intended for collective activities, take primary importance over the school buildings that line the long sides of the lawn. The gymnasium is located southeast of the large central lawn toward the existing cemetery. It is a classroom that is large enough to hold two volleyball courts that faces, with a large continuous window, onto the front lawn that can accommodate its outdoor activities. In the central part of the building a large skylight gives air and light to the entire interior surface. Above a mezzanine, under which the locker rooms and facilities are located, free-body activities can be practiced. The large skylight is the element that gives the gymnasium its own character and, in a way, likens it to the linear bodies of classrooms arranged along the two sides of the lawn. On the opposite side of the gymnasium, facing the same lawn, the canteen is built from a square enclosure, windowed on all four sides and still covered by an iron and glass skylight, this time as large as the whole classroom. The cafeteria also has a mezzanine part, containing the services, on which the teachers’ cafeteria is located. So all the elements of the school overlook the central lawn, and the distribution galleries of the classrooms, which are completely transparent, allow one to see, from the central lawn, the forest in which the school is located. As can be seen a very simple distribution system, with a strong identification of the parts that determines, in addition to the quality of the places, their recognizability as parts of one collective place. The kindergarten, while being part of the complex and approaching it, maintains its own autonomy. The classrooms and equipped rooms overlook a central lawn that stands as the com- munity place of the school, that place to which all activities refer. Outside, the kindergarten also overlooks the forest, at least on three of its four sides, with large French doors allowing a direct visual relationship with it. Its location at the edge of the forest protects the entire school complex from the disturbances of its surroundings.


L. Cardani (edit by) Studio Monestiroli  Opere e progetti di Architettura Electa Milan 2021