Dormitory Building in Bolzano
This proposal for an almost 5,000 m2 dormitory building for sports students of “Claudia di Medici” high school in the city of Bolzano would sit on a site on the edge of the urbanized area adjacent to gently sloping green hills and in sight of the lined-up peaks of surrounding mountains that encircle the city.
The project proposes a cloistered building surrounding a garden where the school's community can gather and practice sports outdoors during the summer days; while in the winter, the enclosed empty space can become both a source of light and the psychological presence of a void embodying common purpose, camaraderie, and the freedom of a future yet to be formed. Green and mountains frame this part of Bolzano, delineating an urban space interwoven with the countryside; the project proposes an equal interdependence of nature and culture embodied in the relationship of the building with its landscape.
Functionally the building will be organized with extreme simplicity as a ring of rooms evenly arranged around the garden: double rooms to the south, single rooms to the west and coaches' rooms to the east. The three bedroom wings embrace the courtyard as if the building were "holding in its arms" a fourth wing, as an architectural swelling where all the common and shared spaces in the building are located. Because the north end of the site is approximately three meters higher, the north wing can be taller, allowing room for the creation of an expanding space that seems to be pushing at the architecture as if under great barometric pressure. In contrast to the simple and ordered layering of floors of the other wings, the north wing is organized in the three-dimensional interdependence of a landscape. An arrangement of changing levels echoing both the mountainous topography further to the north and also the "Raumplan" architecture of Adolf Loos, also to the north in Vienna. The landscape immediately to the north of the building shall be mended back to the original configuration of its topography by removing the existing retaining wall and allowing the terrain to naturally meet the building. The swollen curved walls will act as natural retainer and the pulsating space inside the building will become spontaneous excitement at the meeting of architecture and its ground. Under the building, a basement level of roughly half the size of the total footprint contains the parking spaces, mechanical rooms and necessary storage and service spaces.
Bolzano is a border town where easy definitions of identity and nationality are challenged and synthesized in new ways of being that are both strange and familiar. The architecture of the project embodies that condition by proposing a continuity of urban stereometric forms to the south, confronting the city in a language it understands, while to the north the gently pregnant form of the swelling quietly echoes the profile of the mountains against the sky.
The simple solidity of the form allows the possibility of constructing the building in different materials to suit the intentions of each of the parts: the facades to the south, west and east, regularly articulated in a simple rhythm of solid and void, could be constructed in local brick or rendered in stucco. The cloister walls could be mostly glazing to propitiate planned and unanticipated uses of the courtyard and to propagate through the building the natural light of the day, the views of the nearby mountains, and the dark-blue emptiness of the sky at dusk. The north wing, container of the potential of communal spaces, mediates between the slope of the mountain and the city and could be constructed in zinc-soldered panels. With the structural efficiencies of vaulted forms, the north wing could alternatively be constructed in brick, emphasizing the strangeness of the form by using a familiar material, the same one in which the other wings are constructed. All interiors should be white plaster to propitiate luminosity and efficient daylighting.