At school in a ceramic fortress’
Eric Hanson - Hanson Photographic
Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects
In the new Cleveland Job Corps Center, Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects have given an architectural form to the theme of educating young people through the idea of a compact and protective city and the creation of bright, coloured interiors that make teaching activities easier and stimulating. In terms of urban planning, the Center has the appearance of a compact city, a kind of fortress with a circle of buildings (in the form of a city wall) around a central nucleus, a green space containing the walkways, access routes and more secluded courtyards. The urban gateway to the complex is the administration building, whose function as the principal access to the centre is highlighted architecturally by a metal roofing structure. From here a pathway extends through the green area in front of the two classroom buildings, the canteen and the three residential buildings, as far as the gymnasium on the other side of the campus. The emporium building is decentralised because it needs to be close to the road and the loading/unloading area. The group of buildings faces onto the surrounding roads (where the parking lots are located) protected by a strip of trees, a kind of contemporary moat that separates and provides protection (environmentally, visually and acoustically).
The Center is located in the Collinwood district between 140th street and Coit Road in Cleveland, Ohio, on a 25-acre plot of formerly degraded land. The campus can accommodate 400 young people aged from 16 to 24 and features exclusively single-floor buildings with the exception of the two-storey dormitories, each of which has 36 rooms (for 4 students) with bathroom and cupboard. The buildings have a metal structure and pitched roofs, with the exception of the gym which has a partially curved roof. The landscape created by the lines and inclinations of the roofs is reminiscent of a European old city centre.
The project, the winner of the Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition Award 2008 in the institutional category for the use of Italian ceramic tile in America, features a porcelain tile covering on the walls of all the buildings. This covering, applied to a metallic structure and insulated layer, was chosen in preference to a brick wall for reasons relating to aesthetics (variety of colours and geometry), spatial characteristics (as the wall is just 20 cm thick it allowed for larger rooms) and economics (lower construction costs). Natural stone effect porcelain tiles from the Gemme collection produced by Impronta Ceramiche and distributed by Virginia Tile were applied to a 9,000 square metre external surface. Ideal for external facades due to its resistance to thermal shock, frost and deep abrasion, this covering material was chosen in the two sizes 30×30 cm and 30×60 cm in strips of various colours (opal, amber and garnet), with classic or polished surfaces. The facades of all the buildings also contain large glass-covered openings and large windows which create a sense of continuity with the surroundings and promote an atmosphere of cultural freedom. The campus was founded by the local community and political organisations to support an important educational institution and to train a group of underprivileged young people and give them hope for the future. For this reason the centre is well-lit, welcoming and comfortable without excessive luxury or glamour, concepts that are contrary to the social and educational mission of the campus.