A joyful education
Enzo Baratto (Studio B.A.)
«Se comandasse Arlecchino il cielo, sai come lo vuole? A toppe di cento colori, cucite con un raggio di sole» («If Harlequin ruled the sky, do you know how he’d like it? A patchwork of a hundred colours, sewn together by a sunbeam»): Gianni Rodari’s nursery rhyme perfectly sums up the spirit of light and joy that radiates from the San Giuseppe nursery school in Peraga di Vigonza in the northern Italian province of Padua, a parochial school run by three nuns and a teacher.
Built in accordance with modern educational principles and with special attention to a theme that has been much discussed in recent years, that of the impact of architecture on people’s characters, the San Giuseppe school provides large open spaces for socialisation alongside smaller and more secluded areas for educational activities, meals and resting.
The reception at the school entrance has an area set aside for parents accompanying their children to the cloakroom, where they are met by the staff. This area is designed to be especially comfortable as it is the setting for a very significant moment of the children’s day: separation from their parents and the transition from the home environment to the outside world.
The school as a whole consists of three hipped-roof buildings, functionally interconnected by two arcades, one glazed and the other open. This transparency creates a sense of fluid continuity between the interior and the exterior and is one of the most successful features of the project.
The largest building, which houses the school itself, consists of a central hall used for group educational activities and for important events in the school year such as annual parties with families, theatrical performances and shared class events.
Organised around this large central space are the classrooms, all well equipped and with their own toilets, the school office areas, a storage zone and numerous cupboards.
The architectural project, assigned to the practice Enzo Baratto, makes splendid use of colour, especially in the classroom toilets, in the canteen and in the area reserved for staff. Glazed porcelain tiles from Ceramica Vogue were used in all bathrooms, combining three collections (Interni, Trasparenze and Grip) with different functions but extremely luminous surfaces and an extraordinarily wealth of colours. This makes them ideal for creating patterns, customised chequerboard designs that coordinate with the colours of the classrooms, which are playfully designed so as to encourage children’s creativity. Striking aesthetics combine with strict functionality through the use of glossy wall tiles and rough, non-slip floor tiles to ensure maximum safety.
This school architecture project has maintained a focus on children, seeking to stimulate their expressive capacity by creating spaces filled with light, transparency and colour and providing versatile and hospitable areas for group activities and interaction with families.