C+S Ar­chi­tects

C+S AR­CHI­TECTS SCHOOL COM­PLEX IN FONTANIVA, PADUA

Domus - - CONTENTS - Man­lio Brusatin

Trace the meet­ing point be­tween Vi­cenza, Padua and Tre­viso, and you will find Fontaniva. In an area pop­u­lated by Pal­la­dio vil­las, bell tow­ers and fac­to­ries, Fontaniva is the king­dom of Brenta river gravel: the raw ma­te­rial for the re­con­struc­tion of the Veneto re­gion, since the 1950s to the golden era of the now-van­ished dream of riches known as the North­east. 1.14 The Kite, a school in Fontaniva, Padua, has be­come an im­por­tant piece of ar­chi­tec­ture, where for­ward-think­ing ideas have been grafted to an area that is by no means pe­riph­eral in terms of qual­ity of hous­ing and land­scape. Over time, the ar­chi­tect cou­ple Carlo Cappai and Maria Alessan­dra Se­gan­tini (C+S Ar­chi­tects) has man­aged to form an im­por­tant course of work and ar­chi­tec­tural in­no­va­tion in the am­bit of schools, par­tic­u­larly pri­mary schools, which are fun­da­men­tal for all so­cial projects. 1.14 The Kite was com­mis­sioned and built in the space of one sea­son by ChiarAmEnte, a com­pany that pro­vides ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren from ages 1 to 14. It brings to­gether Maria Montes­sori and Ru­dolf Steiner. Now, in var­i­ous re­gions of Italy, nurs­ery and pri­mary schools are of­fer­ing sit­u­a­tions of ex­cel­lent qual­ity that never cease to amaze us, pre­cisely in com­par­i­son to other na­tions. What can we say? In Italy we have the best schools and the worst pris­ons. Our phi­los­o­phy for di­dac­tics is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing new ex­pe­ri­ences, while the orig­i­nal phi­los­o­phy of On Crimes and Pun­ish­ments (1764) has not pro­gressed. I men­tion this be­cause in Venice, the do­mus ni­gra (“black house”, as mag­is­trates and lawyers call the Venice Law Courts) is in name, and fact, the ex­act op­po­site, even in ar­chi­tec­tural terms, of the beau­ti­ful series of schools by Cappai and Se­gan­tini. The Kite in Fontaniva orig­i­nates from a vol­un­tary ed­u­ca­tional work­shop. It be­gan as ac­tiv­i­ties held af­ter the clos­ing time of the af­ter­school club and sought to ex­pand cre­ative thought from the de­pressed nu­cleus of read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic. At 1.14, the three phases of this ed­u­ca­tional project emerge: 1.6 is the first phase, from 1 to 6 years of age, the sec­ond, 6.11, from 6 to 11, and the third, 6.14, from 6 to 14. The num­bers of these re­spec­tive codes form the logo of the school, painted on the side of the build­ing in very large char­ac­ters with pri­mary colours – the first is green, then blue, and the last num­ber is ma­genta. The re­bus is solved with the same com­mu­nica­tive light­ness of the ar­chi­tec­ture. The Kite is like the one from Giovanni Pas­coli’s poem we used to learn by heart, “There’s some­thing new in the sun to­day, but no, / More like some­thing old”. It re­minds you of the pa­per air­planes thrown all over the place on the last day of school. The most dif­fi­cult thing to do with a kite is not hold­ing it by the string, but get­ting it to fly. This build­ing, although an­chored to the ground, ef­fec­tively man­ages to make the spirit and fan­tasy fly, and that goes for the grown-ups who take their chil­dren there, too. Colours are used in­ter­nally with par­tic­u­lar care, with the ed­u­ca­tional ef­fects of Gestalt. The walls can be used to work on; they are not just painted sur­faces. Amid so much aver­sion to colour (greyscale) and twopenny Mon­drian schemes seen in too much ar­chi­tec­ture, here we fully per­ceive the forth di­men­sion of space. There is ‘am­bi­ent’ (at­mo­spheric) colour and ‘lo­cal’ colour (ob­jects and walls). The white-ce­ment, kite-like school in Fontaniva is like the ‘white wings’ from the same poem, but as it rests in the mid­dle of green­ery, it is ba­si­cally a fly­ing is­land. Inside, dif­fer­ent spa­ces are qual­i­fied as true in­te­ri­ors with re­spect to the ex­te­ri­ors, ex­cept for one point, which is like a con­nect­ing line be­tween the earth and the sky: a cir­cu­lar hole in the roof of the por­tico. It shows what James Tur­rell and Tadao Ando were able to cap­ture else­where: ‘filmic colour’. It’s the same per­fect cut-out of blue that we can see from the bot­tom of Tur­rell’s large-scale art­work in a desert cin­der cone (Ro­den Crater in Ari­zona) and from the wooden din­ing bench at Casa Wabi, Ando’s artists’ re­treat in Oax­aca, Mex­ico. Filmic colour is none other than the sky as it ap­peared to the first ter­res­trial crea­tures, framed by a habi­tat. At Ital­ian coun­try­side fes­ti­vals, where lo­cally grown pro­duce is sold, chil­dren still build and fly kites. Their faces be­tray a de­sire: to be able to see what their kites see. Will they be able to do so with the home-made drones that will soon fill the skies like lo­custs? At the schools de­signed by C+S Ar­chi­tects, all of this is felt, but above all it is seen.

Top: a plan shows the de­sign con­cept of the kite. Fac­ing the south, the build­ing is con­ceived as a large roof pro­tect­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of the chil­dren inside. Above: two stills from a video by Valentina Cocco show the sym­bol­ism of the kite cap­tured in flight, il­lus­trat­ing the build­ing’s con­struc­tional prin­ci­ple

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