This new public building replaced two old structures, the Nursery and the Primary School of Sant’Albino, in Montepulciano, Italy. It is prepared for 80 children aged 3-5 and 125 aged 6-10. It has a large entrance hall, eight classrooms, three specialised rooms for art, music and computer, a canteen and two large autonomous, green courtyards for exterior activities.
The single floored structure provides excellent accessibility to all users and assures a coherent integration in the context, reinforced by the building’s merge with the topography and its flat green roof. Organised in the centre of a triangular-shaped plot, the school maintains the principal balances of the area. It leaves room for a public garden in the upper part (towards the village), as well as a small parking area on the opposite side (by the entrance).
The building is composed of a mixed steel-concrete structure, which allows generous spans and a flexible interior distribution. The L-shaped compact volume articulates the two schools in different wings while offering excellent energetic performance, thanks to the thermal inertia of the building envelope and the use of renewable energy systems (solar panels and photovoltaic). The façades are composed by porotherm clay blocks, thermal insulation and facing brick. All materials employed are environmental-friendly, non-derived from petrochemical synthesis, and many were produced and provided by local manufacturers.
The building and its courtyards recover the traditional image of the surrounding walls of Tuscan historic urban areas and contribute to the creation of a consolidated urban perimeter. Placed in the transition between the village and the countryside, the building assumes a “natural” expressive materiality, provided mainly by the conjunction of brick surfaces and the wooden frames of the openings. Similarly, when viewed from the inside, the building has a great visual and tactile comfort with its interior walls covered with wood panelling and the facing brick courtyards.
The elementary design of the facades assumes the image of a measured contemporary architecture that communicates freely with the outside. Indeed the classrooms’ large widows — protected from direct sunlight by wide eaves — opens directly to the courtyards, while also providing an excellent thermal and acoustic insulation. In the north façade, a long mechanised strip-window frames a view with significant landscape value.
The construction started in June 2011 and was completed in 2016. During this period, it faced several difficulties and tensions due to the economic crisis of the Italian building sector and the bankruptcy of the first contractor. However, the meticulous design of the building and the rigorous control of all the expenses assured the maintenance of the initial budget costs. Nevertheless, the installation of the playground equipment and the tree planting in the courtyards and the public garden was postponed to a subsequent phase.