A CHILDREN’S AGORA IN THE HEART OF MILAN.
A space for children consisting of a nursery and kindergarten plus a sports center, designed by Labics, are born from the remains of a garage in a central area of Milan, Italy. A unique adaptive reuse project, which gives rise to a high-profile architectural and pedagogical structure made in collaboration with Reggio Children.
The architecture studio Labics has designed a new educational space in a central area of Milan, Italy. Jacarandà consists of a nursery and a kindergarten, together with a sports centre with three swimming pools: an articulated structure, not conceived as a mere container of activities, but characterized by the simultaneous presence of public, semi-public and private spaces all brought into a remarkable pre-existing reinforced concrete structure. In the centre is an agora which, like in a small town, becomes the place where the inhabitants -the children and the educators- meet, get to know each other and live. Designed in collaboration with Reggio Children, the school was inaugurated in September 2018.
The educational and recreational programs are hosted in a building from the 1950s, originally built as a car sales hall with a garage. Located along Corso Sempione, in a private pedestrian street, Jacarandà Nursery School is located centrally in the city of Milan and enjoys an unusual condition, conducive to the realization of an original architectural project.
When the property acquired the building, the large vaulted structure and the adjoining spaces had not been in use for some time. The decision to recover these spaces and to use them for new didactic functions was the premise for a unique intervention. In fact, beyond the original industrial connotation, the building had all the characteristics necessary to accommodate a kindergarten. The above ground floor, airy and open, immediately proved to be an ideal setting for new educational functions inspired by the desire to reinterpret the theme of public space. No less surprising was the renovation of the basement, once used as a mechanical repair shop and garage and now dedicated to sport.
The outcome of Labics’ collaboration with Reggio Children, already successfully tested within their MAST project in Bologna, Jacarandà reflects the aims and principles identified by the institution specializing in primary education. For this reason, the values of sharing and participation are placed at the centre of the project.
“For us it is necessary to be able to conceive environments capable of stimulating an active interpretation of space. In other words, we need to imagine places where we can experience, places where we can grow, places that are as open as possible to different uses and interpretations.”
A high-profile architectural and pedagogical structure is the result of the project. This new intervention by Labics is supported by the desire to offer children, aged between 6 months and 6 years, a new space for meeting, research and discovery, involving their knowledge, their creativity and the wonder of learning, in a bilingual educational context. All this in a hospitable environment designed for a participatory education, oriented to the daily relationship between children, teachers and parents.
Characterized by the coexistence of public, semi-public and private spaces, arranged in continuity with each other, this children’s center incorporates the structure of a city whose inhabitants - chThe various educational sections overlook the large, bright and transparent agora, the real heart of the project: a double height volume, center of spatial organization and distribution of horizontal and vertical paths that extend over 2,100 square meters.
The agora is at the same time an atrium, a place of informal meeting and socialization, a place for collective functions. Here the life of the children unfolds. From this place it is possible to look towards all the spaces of the project: the classrooms, the laboratories and the didactic environments overlook it through extended glass surfaces that allow the gaze and the light to pass through. All the classrooms are equipped with large open spaces where children can play and continue the educational experience in the open air, in contact with nature.ildren and educators - meet and share spaces.
Guided by the desire to preserve the identity of the original building, which is primarily characterized by a continuous and very bright environment, Labics chose to place the kindergarten classrooms on the first floor, building three suspended bridges that follow the pace of the structure made of reinforced concrete arches. These bridges, suspended by tie rods made of steel plates, allow light to flow inside and bear witness to the space in its original configuration.
The basement accommodates three swimming pools which, accessible to the public through an independent entrance, can also be used by school children at dedicated times.
The materials used for the envelope meet the desire to preserve and leave in evidence the industrial identity of the building, an identity that is based essentially on the morphology of space, continuous and very bright, and on the coincidence between space and structure. In this sense, the materials respect an essential language: resin floors, plastered walls, aluminium windows and doors, steel structures, large open windows. On the contrary, the furnishings, designed by Labics in collaboration with Play+, favored materials that were less abstract, more colorful, and almost tactile.
In direct connection with the classrooms on the first floor, a terraced area on the roof of a part of the building covers 600 square metres. It is used as a play ground and equipped with movable furniture, plants and small educational gardens.
In addition to these spaces, along the path that connects the kindergarten with the sports center, one finds, in sequence: a small outdoor theater, designed to be used mainly by the kindergarten for performances or collective activities; a covered space designed to accommodate tables and chairs. It is the last public space open to the city and directly connected to the swimming pools. Two large circular holes connect this space with the terrace of the kindergarten, where the presence of two trees recalls the name of the complex: “Jacarandà” is in fact a tropical tree that grows in Argentina, the country of origin of the family that conceived the whole project. All this gives shape to a continuous system of open and covered spaces, a real urban system that connects Corso Sempione, where the entrance to the kindergarten is located, with Via Procaccini, from where one can access the swimming pools.