The ‘Little Rascals’ nursery school occupies part of a large building that has always been destined to children: the Via Pitteri complex, built in 1932 and once premises of a venerable Milanese institution, the Martinitt Orphanage. Today, smaller community units around the city have taken on its social function, and the rest of the complex’s fate is still under discussion.
The various pavilions remain as they were, connected by a continuous arcade and surrounding a large garden. The Rizzoli Pavilion hosts our nursery school, whose newly built classrooms face this quiet and deeply soothing space. The reinstated brick arches (they had been walled up in a previous phase) contain a box made of sliding glass panels, designed to match the height and spacing of the arches themselves.
The relationship between indoor and outdoor space is, indeed, no mere declaration of principle but an actual reclaiming of space: from the tiny microcosms designed as play areas real trees, hedges and views of surrounding architecture are close and clearly visible.
Widely-accepted pedagogical theories, regarding infant perception of shape, size, material and colour, inspired our design of the interiors. A longitudinal wall, which screens the quiet-time and utility areas, runs along the length of the pavilion, curving and changing shape. The holes pierced along its length are designed to encourage inquisitive children to explore and discover. The infants can rest in the quiet little niches, feel safe behind the curving wall and peep out on tiptoes through the spy holes. A pattern of vibrating, wooden slats covers the play area’s ceiling, whilst the quiet area is lit by little, round, light-bulb-like moons. The decorated floor evokes the Milky Way.