About 70% of the 40,000 school buildings in the country were built before 1975. The aging of the structures, the inadequacy of seismic safety and the poor energy performances are an emergency to face, but at the same time a unique opportunity to renew the spaces for teaching.
As schools now tend to be considered new civic centers with qualified services such as libraries, auditoriums and meeting spaces, redevelopment is fundamental for urban regeneration.
The challenge of the project "Torino fa scuola" comes from these considerations; the project was promoted and supported by the Agnelli Foundation and the Compagnia di San Paolo, in collaboration with the City of Turin and the Foundation for the School, which allowed us to work on two emblematic cases study of the Italian school building heritage and to test an interesting prototype of partnership between public and private to streamline procedures and optimize resources.
The Pascoli School project acts as a model of intervention on the typology of the nineteenth-century building, taking on the challenge of bringing innovative teaching within the walls of a protected historic building, permeated by structural and cultural constraints, breaking down the barriers of the classroom towards large impressive spaces that become inhabited environments.
Spaces design develops and enriches the ambitions of the pedagogical project. It enhances the strengths and recognizes the critical aspects of the existing building, furthermore it is a starting point to imagine other and unusual solutions, so as to achieve the objectives and fulfill the wishes of future students.
Continuous teaching requires large, bright spaces, contact with the outside, total accessibility of the rooms. The building puts itself at the service of the training project and becomes an integral part of it. The school is an inclusive space where it is possible to learn by playing and it becomes a reference point for children and the rest of the community.
The most complex interventions that give to the school a strong innovation are the creation of the roof terrace, the displacement of the entrance with the creation of an internal atrium and the mezzanine created to house the library. However, these interventions respect historical architecture and enhance its potential, hidden by interventions carried out in the economy over the years. The redevelopment of the spaces has been integrated into a global rethinking of the building, with the aim of obtaining a school projected towards the future. A school with contemporary spaces and solutions, which maintains intact the characteristics that had marked its construction over the long years of activity.
The main staircase is a characteristic element of contemporary school buildings even if previously this was altered by the fire compartmentation. Thanks to the new design of the external safety stairs, it is possible to restore the initial design of the main stairs. They becomes, indeed, the fulcrum of the distribution system, exactly as it was originally thought. The new connections between the main staircase and the mezzanine levels and the roof slab are made with light metal walkways. They tend to disappear against the background of the walls of the stairwell because they are painted white. All the buffered arches are freed, representing a further element of return of the initial proportions.
The pre-existing technical blocks, made with an absolutely random design, are integrated with the new service compartments, joined to the floors and treated as fixed furniture elements.
To restore the dimensions of the corridor on the ground floor, previously occupied entirely by a compass that altered its proportions, the entrance was moved and a ramp was created to overcome the difference in height from the street level. In the same way in all the internal corridors, used for common activities, the infill of the arches towards the classrooms is eliminated, in favor of fixed furnishings and glazed portions on the lunettes, currently filled.
With a view to opening and releasing the historical supporting structure, the recovery and restoration of the characteristic checkerboard cement tiles helps to restore the reading of the continuity and breadth of the distribution spaces.
The restoration of the gym brings to light the coffered ceiling hidden for years by false ceilings; the construction of the mezzanine for the library allows the reading of these details, in a contemporary, and at the same time suggestive, space.
In the classrooms, the ceilings are replaced by linear slabs, slightly detached from the side walls, leaving the historical vaults to be perceived; the compromised floors are replaced with new wooden ones, taking up the historical use of the material.
The replacement of the safety staircase, determined by the need to serve all floors with coherent escape routes, allows, finally, a reorganization of the external space, not directly usable by users, but privileged overlooking from classrooms and workplaces, as well as from the roof terrace.
The new entrance and the restoration of the facade on via Duchessa Jolanda
The intervention involved moving the entrance to via Duchessa Jolanda, where an existing window was transformed into a portal that reaches the sidewalk level. The metal frame of the portal takes up the color and proportions of the frames that mark the other windows on the facade. The door is transparent, with two doors, and is surmounted by a fixed cover.
The entrance hall
The demolition of a bay of vaults allowed to create a new ramp to overcome the difference in height between the sidewalk and the mezzanine floor, which intersects laterally with the steps leading to the new atrium. The compass and the flight of stairs which performed the same function have been eliminated, to create instead a large and partition-free environment, in which the structure of the historic building is readable again.
On the floor below, where the archives of the 1563 Foundation of the Compagnia di San Paolo are located, the intrados of the ramp are left exposed. The progress of the reinforced concrete ramp constitutes the new ceiling of the gallery, denouncing the intervention.
The ramp of the new entrance, the steps and the hall are paved in Luserna stone, while the atrium is paved in bamboo and houses two low volumes, the reception and the toilets, which detach themselves so as not to interfere with the large vaulted room.
The restoration of the gym and the new mezzanine floor for library use
The intervention involved the restoration of a gym room, which could be transformed into a theater / conference room, in a space that was already present inside the building. Part of the ancient space and the adjacent corridor were occupied for the changing rooms and service areas. In correspondence with these, the great height made it possible to exploit a double level with the insertion of a new mezzanine floor, compartmented by windows. The demolition of the false ceilings freed the historic coffered ceiling.
The central stairwell and the connecting walkways
Following the intervention, the stairwell becomes again the fulcrum of the building. In fact, the construction of the two external emergency stairs allows to keep it open on the corridors on the different floors, freeing all previously buffered gates and eliminating the REI compartments . The stone steps, the iron parapet and the wooden handrail have been cleaned and restored. The metal walkways, with white painted steel parapet, the intrados in fireproof plasterboard and bamboo flooring, delicately fit into the frame of the staircase, connecting the new levels opened by the project both with the staircase and with the lift tower .
In correspondence with the landing of the staircase on the floors, technical blocks have been created which interact by color with the cement floor and group all the necessary technical and storage functions as separate elements.
Thematic libraries and the enhancement of the glass window on the internal courtyard
The movement of the toilets allowed to enhance the glazed area located on the internal corner between the two sleeves of the building. In this position the thematic reading rooms of the floor have been placed, conceptually connected to the widespread library, around the central stairwell.
The modification of the section of the sleeve Duchess Jolanda: second mezzanine floor and roof terrace
The intervention changes the section of the sleeve facing Via Duchessa Jolanda transforming the pitched roof into a terrace roof. This makes it accessible from the top floor of the school through the central staircase. The attic floor (second mezzanine floor) was half raised, on the internal courtyard, and dedicated to group work, office space and teacher space. The new roof slab was left with the exposed intrados as in the case of the entrance ramp on the archive, this rests on the existing arches creating a game of double levels. The terrace is in yellow sandstone, the facade that emerges on the internal courtyard is covered with stoneware slabs that bind chromatically to the decorations of the facade. The empty parts pick up the rhythm of the underlying ones.
The new external safety staircase
In order to serve all the existing floors and the new terrace for fire safety purposes, the intervention provided for the replacement of the external emergency staircase serving the sleeve of via Duchessa Jolanda. It is a metal ramp, surrounded by a full parapet with the effect of a band, which wraps around a central septum in exposed concrete.
The cement floors in the distribution spaces have been maintained, integrating with new elements where the plant passages are concentrated. The original wooden floor of the gym has been restored, while the decay of the other flooring has unfortunately not allowed their conservation. Therefore it was decided to replace them with industrial wooden flooring (bamboo), as it was already been supposed for the spaces where the floor were not original and in the new escape routes. Instead, PVC was used in different colors in the bathrooms and laboratories. The entrance ramp and the staircase that connects to the atrium is made of Luserna stone, taking up the material of the main stairwell. The roof terrace is covered in yellow gold arenite quartz.
The new partitions
The new partitions are made of acoustically insulated double sheet plasterboard. These sheet set back from the load-bearing walls which always allows the reading of the arches. Between the classroom and the corridor the effect is accentuated by the presence of a transparent glass bezel. Three times in a different way, two on the first floor and one on the second floor, movable walls have been inserted to allow the classes to communicate in a large unique environment.
The suspended ceilings
In order to mask off-track systems and to improve the acoustic quality, false ceilings have been created in all areas except for the corridors, the sleeve of the first mezzanine floor and the stairwell. There the vaults have been bleached, enhancing them and showing them off. With the exception of the bathrooms and the technical rooms, all the false ceilings are treated like sails that detach themselves from the walls to leave visible the supporting structure and the depth of the vaults above.
The assessment of the seismic vulnerability of the building allowed to identify the weak points where to operate to improve its performance. Therefore, specific consolidation interventions were carried out on some masonry masts of the basement. Threaded bars were inserted, hidden in the mortar between the bricks, while the bricks of the entrance hall were treated with reinforced plaster. The new structures were built with lightened reinforced concrete. The connecting walkways and the new mezzanine floor, on the other hand, were dry-constructed with a steel structure and wooden planks.
The new electrical system has been created by limiting the undercut passages and exploiting the new false ceilings, so as not to compromise the load-bearing structure excessively. The bathrooms were mostly located close to the existing ones, in order to optimize drains and vents.
As for the heating system, already connected to the district heating network, the heating elements and the distribution uprights have been replaced, following where possible the traces of the existing passages.
The mechanical ventilation system, present on the first mezzanine floor only, was built using as much as possible the niches on the load-bearing walls. The supply and return of air were concentrated on the façade of the windows of the floor libraries, which masks the technical room itself.
The improvement of the acoustic quality
In order to improve the reverberation times in the classrooms and in the other rooms of the school, sound-absorbing melamine panels have been applied to the walls and ceilings. Acoustic ceilings have been set up, to which a layer of polyester fiber has been combined. In the atrium and in the entrance gallery, there are also sound-absorbing panels affixed to the walls like paintings. Inside the music room, the system has been further integrated with the insertion of other wall devices, made of wood and synthetic material, and with the use of axes with double surfaces, reflective on the outside and absorbent to the 'internal, which allow you to adjust a different perception of sound when needed.
The colors and furnishings
The building envelope was renovated in neutral tones: white and dark blue were used for the fixed furnishings, which reflect the colors of the checkered concrete floor. In this way they integrate more with the walls and do not weigh down the image of the building. The mobile furnishings, on the other hand, are in colored tones typical of the school function.