The Tree-House School
Valentino Gareri envisions a school for the post COVID times by scaling up the area and immersing it in nature.
While schools have slowly started reopening, the chances of contact and spread are a threat to the smooth functioning of education institutions leaving many parents and even educators in a flux. Now more than ever, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of designing buildings where the relationship with nature is reinforced.
“In these contexts, primary importance should be given to educational buildings. Many protocols have been developed by National Governments in order to make the return to school possible, even in buildings that were not designed to facilitate physical distancing,” says Valentino Gareri.
According to the designer, Valentino Gareri, the schools of the future will have to be designed under a new point of view: rather than just considering sustainability, they will have to embrace the ability-to-sustain the new condition of the pandemic and its subsequent social distancing.
Moreover, thanks to the possibility given by ‘smart working’, one of the post-COVID consequences have been the relocation of people from big cities to less dense areas.
Valentino opinions that this phenomenon puts the accent on the importance of requalifying areas that have been forgotten.
“In these circumstances, the concept model of the school of the future has to be enlarged to a bigger scale:we should start thinking about educational buildings where several schools are combined (kindergarten, primary and secondary school)still maintaining their own independence,” he says.
“Community center, an urban plaza, a café, and a library should be included and offered as spaces for the entire community: the building is operable 24hours and becomes an important civic reference and thus opens up the opportunity for the requalification of suburbs and rural areas,” says Valentino.
Considering these aspects, the proposed design provides a modular educational center that can include all the phases of the educational process: Kindergarten, Primary, and Secondary schools.
All the required spaces are fitted into two rings: the massing articulation allows us to create of two courtyards and an additional usable roof.
The classrooms are located in circle and have connections to the courtyards and the outdoor landscape. Each module, of 55 sqm, is made of cross-laminated timber and corresponds to an ideal classroom of 20/25 students connected by a central corridor.
The building is designed as a ‘tree-house’ and it is distributed through multiple levels, where also roofs are usable and where indoor and outdoor spaces are combined allowing high flexibility for educational activities.
The main idea is to create a school that is suspended and immersed in nature, as a house tree, where the relationship with nature is physically and visibly increased.
This is possible thanks to the faceted façade, made by the alternation of solid timber panels and glazing panels. The circular perimeter allows us to block the direct sunlight with the opaque panels, and get diffuse light and free view through the transparent ones.
“The school of the future has to be energy self-sufficient. The educational building adopts several sustainable devices as rainwater collections, natural cross-ventilation, and photovoltaic panels, wind energy devices, all located on the higher roof.
At this level, accessible by the scholars, are exhibited all the sustainable devices that the school utilizes in order to reduce the energy consumptions,” he says.
Sustainability becomes part of the educational experience of the children, who have their first approach to this theme through the building itself.
The modularity of the design allows for future school extension, with different programs, different numbers of classrooms, and also can be adapted to create different functions, such as temporary medical centers for emergencies or temporary residential units.
“The school of the future has to be sustainable and at the same time, able to sustain the new post-COVID requirements. It has to be outdoor spaces inclusive and open to nature, made of natural materials and low-cost construction techniques, as modular design,” explains Valentino.
It has to be highly flexible and able to be adapted to different functions and programs, and provide several benefits to the whole community, becoming the incipit for the requalification of peripheral urban areas believe the designer.
Design: Valentino Gareri
(Parametric modeling: Mirco Bianchini, Frontal & Roof views: Winston Wu)