Campus Symbiosis on The Plan n.128

In the special issue “Architecture for Education” of the international architectural magazine THE PLAN (n.128 /2021) you can find the new episode of “Viaggio in Italia” edited by critic Valerio Paolo Mosco, entitled “The suitable behavior of architecture”, which tells about our studio and in particular the project of the Campus Symbiosis of ICS Milan International School in the innovative district of Covivio in Porta Romana in Milan, opened in January.

This project, begun in 2018, was a new experience for us – we had never designed a school – and particularly intense, also because it fortunately brought us several times to be able to interface with the generations that now animate the building. In 2019 in fact, when the project was already underway, we participated in several workshops to collect contaminations and suggestions directly from the disruptive imagination of children.

In January, the students of ICS Milan Fontanili, from kindergarten to middle school, explained to us how they would like their ideal school to be, and in particular what activities they would like to be able to carry out on the terraces and in the outdoor playground. In May, instead, we invited in our studio the students of two Milanese high schools, Vittorini and Volta, as well as students of the last class of the middle school of ICS Milan, and we made them think in heterogeneous groups about the ideal qualities of the internal spaces (classrooms, corridors, entrance, canteen, gym). From imaginative collages and posters crowded with post-it notes, emerged the desire for a digital and interactive school, with natural colors and spaces for informal uses, to be able to attend even beyond class hours. In December 2019, we led some of ICS Milan’s current students on a tour of the construction site, and with an enthusiasm not at all dampened by the heavy rain, they hoisted the flags on the building that had reached the roof. Two months later, Covid turned our lives upside down, but thanks to the collaboration of all involved, the construction site was completed.

On January 7, 2021, this school, a contemporary prototype of a multi-generational school building with an international design approach program, opened its doors. With the start of school activities, our activities have therefore come to an end. However, we consider this “end” every time as the beginning of a new process, for us as interesting as that of the material construction: that of the observation of the adoption of the building by the city, which welcomes and admits it in its complex and stratified life, and that of the beginning of the life itself of the users who are going to animate it. We always try, with our architecture, to imagine behaviors, to activate superfluous questions, unforeseen opportunities; and this time even more, in our first school, unexpected opportunities for the generations of the future that we have been able to accompany by the hand in the growth of a project that has been choral.

Gianandrea Barreca, Giovanni La Varra

photo credits: Barreca & La Varra, ICS Milan, Ugo De Berti


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