San Benedetto dei Marsi, Italy

Zero-Net Energy

Mass Timber School


The opportunity provided by Della Nuova Scuola Denominato “Marruvium.Almamaterstudiorum.2017” is transformational for the commune of San Benedetto dei Marsi. The re-creation and re-placement of the civic heart extends far beyond the physical school – our proposed concept stitches together the commune and scuola through architecture and activity.This proposal finds opportunity within the given conditions by pulling the building massing back from the northern edge of the site – creating space for the civic life of the commune and the daily activities of the school to intermingle in the new entry piazza. Manipulating the site’s slope creates a welcoming space for the new piazza and links it to the pedestrian street and existing public space to the north. Cutting open the new building form at the northern edge establishes the framework for the organization of the new school.

The new 2375 m2 school is contained within a two-level mass timber, seismically resilient structure that meets Passivhaus energy standards. The building form is derived from the surrounding vernacular structures featuring a simple gabled roof. The building volume and form are then rotated and cut/opened at key locations to create the public entry points into the school. The new piazza cut into the north elevation extends to the building elevation where a large filtered wall presents a lively public face and the Secondary School entry. Both main points of ingress into the school offer transparent, bright welcoming apertures for both students, staff and the public.The organization of the school follows a programmatic and experiential filtering moving from the north to the south of the site – Public to Individual, Performance to Instruction. Filtering occurs at each zone moving from the Public piazza to the internal Performance Space, then to the Agora Collaboration Space, to the Classroom Zone and culminating in the Private Play Garden outside the Primary Classroom Zone.

At key intersections with the Agora vibrant spaces are created with maximum energy and interaction. Entering from the north, the Auditorium/Canteen/Laboratory volume creates a double height volume and the spatial heart of the school. This highly flexible space with present different experiences throughout the day – a canteen during meals, a performance space during and after school hours and a laboratory for continuing education classes. In this proposal the Agora finds its strength through flexibility and the adjacency to the classrooms. Opportunity exists with the flexibility of the Soft Classrooms and the ability of the Agora to open onto the Winter Garden. The Classrooms are compact, full of light and connected to the exterior landscape on both levels.

The key spatial cues on the interior of the school are color and materiality. Vibrant colors derived from the Abruzzo regions’ agricultural products are the basis for the color palette. The materiality of the mass timber structure creates a warm wood interior environment punctuated by the bright moments of color. Extended experiences of calm occur in the classrooms and feature a muted material context.