The competition organized by the municipality of Biasca (CH) was focused on the future intergenerational area of Bosciorina and required the design of the school buildings (kindergarten, elementary school, and spaces for special education services) with the related infrastructures (a gymnasium and a media library ‘Bibliomedia’) and a proposal for the location, within the sector, of the future elderly home.

Studio Name: Nicola Probst Architetti + AOUMM
Design Team: Nicola Probst, Fausto Fabiano, Luca Astorri, Riccardo Maria Balzarotti, Rossella Locatelli, Matteo Umberto Poli, Cong Dinh Huynh, Rafael Gridelli
Area: Architecture – Educational

Year: 2021
Location: Biasca, CH
Other Credits: Views by Flooer Studio

A School in BIASCA by Nicola Probst Architetti + AOUMM - Sheet2
©Nicola Probst Architetti + AOUMM

Nicola Probst Architetti + AOUMM’s proposal for the sector is characterized as an open and permeable structure, where the users are not only students and their parents but all citizens, and that becomes part of the urban fabric of Biasca. Through precise alignments among buildings, the new sector is accessible to the entire population, thus defining a new centrality for Biasca and surrounding municipalities. The ground floors are more permeable than the upper floors, generating new public pedestrian passages and new possibilities of relationships for citizens, strongly favoring the idea of intergenerationality.

A School in BIASCA by Nicola Probst Architetti + AOUMM - Sheet3
©Nicola Probst Architetti + AOUMM

This approach informs a new public space to the east, located in the center of the area. This public space becomes a podium that joins tightly the three educational buildings. The podium (at elevation +0.00 = 304 m a.s.l.) is located at + 0.90 m from the settled ground and is generated by the alignments and excavations of the ground floors and by the sloping ground. The podium also defines the first construction phase, while the new elderly home is estimated to arrive after approximately 5-10 years. Once this second phase is realized, this new public space will be exactly in the middle between the elementary school, the new gymnasium, and the new elderly home, as well as at the center of the new public park.

The external arrangement and the use of greenery emphasize these concepts. Except for the new kindergarten, where the external area is for the exclusive use of children, the area is conceived as one big public park, open to everyone. A pedestrian walkway and a new row of trees underline the importance of the central east-west axis, which ideally continues via Bosciorina and via Montemartini, while other trees and shrubs, always in close relation with the buildings, define different outdoor spaces – flowing freely into each other – with different functions. On the west side, a row of shrubs clearly defines the boundary between the new public center and the existing residential area. On the south side, a freer arrangement is foreseen, where the public passages acquire a more informal character. This will allow the future residents of the elderly home to have wider or shorter pedestrian paths, meeting their motor possibilities.

The open urban arrangement is reflected in the architecture: simple volumes, carved out where they define public entrances or passageways. Thus the ground floor becomes more permeable than the upper floors and allows for public crossing.

©Nicola Probst Architetti + AOUMM

The elementary school and the new gymnasium directly overlook the new public space. The school is accessed through an arcade, serving as an outdoor atrium and a protected meeting space. The access to the vertical connection, the library, and the speech therapy services is located here. The elementary school is developed on three floors, according to a precise modular scanning around a central corridor; in the head is located the second staircase.

The gymnasium is characterized by being partially underground. This allows to limit the volumetric impact and to settle the first step of the bleachers at zero level, to almost become an extension of the adjacent public space. The access to the gymnasium is to the west, along the covered public passage that joins the south side to the north side of the park. Here is the new kindergarten, marking the northern boundary of the park. The building is carved in different sections, with patios defining the outdoor spaces and light intakes; the volume is

excavated to allow access and public passage between the + 0.00 floor (304 m a. s. l.) and the +3.40 street level (307.40 m a.s.l.).

The media library is also a simple and clear volume. Here, a double height defines the large reception hall, which directs all the functional flows thus becoming the nerve center of the building. The double height is generated by the staircase and a modular system of open shelves.

The buildings follow a modular scanning, allowing precision in the architectural and construction language and providing a favorable impact on cost containment. The preschool, elementary school, and media library are blade buildings; the blade defines the structure, interior spaces, and public passageways. The buildings are compact and massive construction with all major structural elements – walls, slabs beams, and columns – made of cast-in-place reinforced concrete. An exception is the gymnasium, which is a large void covered by a structured glulam roof. The language of the façades in the sector wants to be simple but strongly characterize the public function of the buildings. This language is directly related to constructive and structural reasons. The load-bearing structure of the typical building is regular in plan and continuous in elevation. The structural concept is based on solid slabs with linear supports on walls, wall beams or edge beams, or point beams (e.g. prefabricated pillars). The facades are ventilated with a stone finish.

The three main materials used for façades are concrete, stone, and glass. Concrete and stone create dynamic interconnections, where concrete strongly marks the podium, the cornice, and the string course. Vertically, the concrete also defines the possibility of a small opening window, which is inserted into large fields of fixed glass as required by Minergie standard, followed by the whole project. Stone is a cladding within the horizontal and vertical texture of concrete, just as the large windows are intended to emphasize the public character of the buildings. The only exception to the horizontality and verticality of the language is the diagonal truss supporting the large gymnasium roof as if to denounce the structural character of the building. Here, an external semi-transparent metal brise-soleil allows for external sun screening, while from the inside it frames the view of the surrounding landscape. The thermal insulation is external to the structure, allowing an easy resolution of thermal bridges. The stone parts of the façade are designed as ventilated, because of their durability and the low maintenance required.

The project follows the Minergie standard, required for new public buildings. In addition, the label allows achieving high levels of indoor comfort both in terms of thermal and air quality. Controlled mechanical ventilation systems guarantee constantly clean air, eliminating harmful substances and excess humidity. It is proposed to exploit the low-temperature energy contained in the subsoil with the construction of a thermal power plant, common to all buildings, located at the lower level of the gymnasium building. A photovoltaic system is also foreseen, installed on the roofs of several buildings. The project has been developed aiming to limit the energy required for heating by defining stratigraphies of the envelope with high thermal insulation performances, maximizing the exploitation of passive solar contributions in winter. The choice of ventilated façades in stone or with double walls of exposed concrete allows particular attention to the control of thermal bridges and the continuity of the insulating layers. The control strategy against summer overheating passes in the first place by passive solutions, acting on the thermal capacity of buildings and the reduction of external heat inputs: windows and doors will adopt selective glass that will allow a high light transmission with a limited thermal transmission and will be used shutters with automated operation by radiation sensors.

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