LOCATION Monreale, Palermo, Italy
YEAR 2016
THEME Architecture, Education spaces, Comprehensive Institute
STATUS Competition, Winning project, Ongoing
DESIGNERS Tomaso Monestiroli, Luca Cardani, Giovanni Uboldi

The area designated for the new institute district of the city of Monreale is located south of the historic center. It is a steep area entirely overlooking the natural landscape of the Oreto River plain and the Gulf of Palermo. It is a scenically extraordinary place, an area surrounded by the heights that draw the Gulf of Palermo, facing northeast to the Tyrrhenian Sea, in which nature expresses an important reference. Monreale is defined through the relationship of its ancient center with the monumental complex of the cathedral, which, downstream, is the terminal of the urban axis of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which leads from the city to Palermo, establishing a direct relationship.

The monuments of the historic center emerge through their character in the fabric of the city making themselves recognizable, even at a distance, as the collective places on which the city is built. It is in this sense that the theme of the school, understood as the place of growth and formation of a community, is interpreted, and thus the school architectural complex, not a mere building, but a symbolic collective place destined to be an urban pole of reference for the city, recognizable not only by those who attend it, but by all citizens. The references assumed in the design of the project were the gymnasium and the Carthusian monastery, places that have always been built on the close relationship between the public and private parts, between the spaces open to the community and those reserved for the direct users of these places. From these references we have extracted and assumed the architectural and typological elements that most define them: the stoa and the courtyard.
The idea is to build the school as a community place of integration between cultures and thus to all intents and purposes as a small city. A composition that is built from the relationship between public and private places, between street and square, between covered and open spaces, all in direct contact with nature and landscape. The typological choice underlying the project is the construction of a stoà facing the landscape, which constitutes the distributive axis of the entire school complex. The stoà is connected to the individual parts of the school: to the north, in direct relation to the city and building the new street front, are the auditorium, the laboratory block open to the city, the entrance atrium and the gymnasium; to the south, at the entrance atrium, is the large teaching cloister, around which the classrooms and laboratories of the primary and secondary school are organized. The cloister, located at a lower elevation than the entrance hall and overlooked by all classrooms and laboratories, thus becomes the students’ square, an agora of culture where they can share collective activities and carry out play and recreational activities. The stoa, in addition to being the connecting element between the parts, thanks to its depth, is also the place of informal space where students in their break times can fully enjoy the wonderful view of the landscape. At the east and west ends are the gymnasium and auditorium, respectively. The gymnasium can be accessed directly from the school’s plaza; a flight of steps, located on the side of the entrance, accommodates the difference in elevation due to the morphology of the terrain and allows a view of the playing field and, beyond, of the landscape towards the Gulf of Palermo. At the opposite end of the stoà is built the auditorium with the theater workshop attached and all the functional service spaces: a large double-height classroom accessible from the theater’s small square or directly from the stoà, in which the entire school community is seated on a sloping stalls.


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

S. della Torre, M. Bocciarelli, L. Daglio, R. Neri (edit by)  
Buildings for Education. A multidisciplinary overview of the design of School Buildings Springer International Publishing 2020

C. Simioni, A. Tognon (edit by) La città. Progetti urbani 
Aiòn Edizioni Florence 2019