Sustainability and tradition at the service of children
Giancarlo De Carlo e Associati
A sinuous curve, a soft blanket spread out over a green bed: this is the first image that springs to mind when observing the new Lama Sud infant school complex designed by Studio De Carlo e Associati, winner of a Europe-wide competition launched by the Municipality of Ravenna in 2003. Based on a design concept that combines tradition and innovation, simplicity of spatial distribution and variegated composition, the building is inspired by local architecture, fitting in with the surrounding urban scale and materials. At the same time it features an extraordinary innovation, the undulating roof that is open to a range of imaginative interpretations, from a warm protective blanket to the play of moving waves.
The complex consists of two volumes immersed in a large green garden: to the north a nursery school for 168 children, to the south a kindergarten for 60 children. It is located to the south of the Lama canal on a 22,000 square metre site that also houses a documentation centre and a play area for children accompanied by their parents. The aim of the project is to create new urban identities, so it is not just a socially useful and sustainable redevelopment project but one that creates a beautiful place with a strong personality on the outskirts of Ravenna.
The principle of sustainability is much in evidence throughout the building, from the radiant floor panels to the insulation, from photovoltaic panels that convert solar energy into electricity to a system for collecting and storing rainwater for garden irrigation.
But the natural qualities of the building are also reflected in the choice of finishing materials, carefully selected to achieve a strong sense of harmony between the colours of the various components. In a warm and aesthetically pleasing juxtaposition with wood, the porcelain floor tiles (Casalgrande Padana, Metalwood platinum 30×60 cm) installed in the distribution spaces, the squares and the ateliers create areas and routes with a simple and clear layout pattern that lends uniformity to the common and distribution areas while determining their functional organisation.
The tiles’ natural brightness is strongly enhanced by an architecture that is everywhere permeable to the landscape and dialogue continuously with the surrounding environment, allowing air, light, colour and warmth to filter in. This is a result not only of engineering design, but also of intense preparatory group work carried out in close cooperation with technicians and educationalists from the Ravenna city council, who saw the architectural space as an essential component of educational activities together with other criteria of quality and strength of materials, simplicity, intelligent design and flexibility. It is almost a pedagogical vision of space created with children in mind, where nothing is harsh or overbearing.
The project also won the Grand Prix 2007-2009, International architectural competition sponsored by Casalgrande Padana, in the section Public building and services, industrial building.