Enrico Molteni Architecture completes a timber and glass inclusive education center in Parma
Marco Cappelletti

Enrico Molteni Architecture completes a timber and glass inclusive education center in Parma

6 Jun 2024  •  News  •  By Gerard McGuickin

Milan-based Enrico Molteni Architecture has completed the development of an inclusive education center in Parma, Italy. The center is the result of a collaboration between the University of Parma (UNIPR) and the Accademia dei Giorni Straordinari Foundation (the AGS Foundation promotes the “social inclusion of adolescents in fragile conditions”). The design comprises two interconnected and symmetrical buildings, each with a distinct purpose and a shared educational ethos: One building is a public facility that serves as a nursery and kindergarten — a “Childhood Hub” — for children aged 0 – 6 years, providing support for university employees and students. The other building is a private facility dedicated to fostering cultural and social inclusion for vulnerable children aged 10 – 14 years.

photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti
photo_credit Enrico Molteni Architecture
Enrico Molteni Architecture

Nestled in a park on UNIPR’s Science and Technology campus, the education center is a one-story, lightweight timber pavilion encircled by a portico of slender, leaning support columns, following the principle of radial symmetry. The pavilion’s rectangular shape is made up of two square buildings placed side by side and intersected by an open space that invites interaction and community. Despite the juxtaposition of the two structures, they are entirely independent of each other. “The fundamental concept of the project was that of equality, to the extent that the architecture of the AGS Foundation and that of the Childhood Hub are the same architecture,” says Enrico Molteni. The studio’s conceptual reference for the project is the ancient and mythological Roman god Janus: depicted as having two faces and one head, it denotes “duality and symmetry, unity and indivisibility.”

photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti
photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti

Enrico Molteni chose an approach that integrates the education center into the infrastructure of the UNIPR campus. “The new pavilion is positioned following the same orthogonal grid — at a 45-degree angle to the north — which organizes all existing buildings,” says the studio. The pavilion’s two structures face opposite sides: the kindergarten is more protected and looks towards a stream; the AGS Foundation looks out on the Giocampus (a sports association integrated with the foundation).

photo_credit Enrico Molteni Architecture
Enrico Molteni Architecture
photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti

The pavilion’s specific identity, its architecture and materiality, contrasts with other buildings on the campus, setting it apart. An entirely wooden structure, the surrounding portico is five-metes (16-feet) high. Its two buildings — the kindergarten and AGS Foundation — are physically separated by a 12-centimeter cut. Enrico Molteni explains the pavilion’s floor plan arrangements: “The plan composition is strongly geometric, employing double symmetries, whole or shaped figures, nested together — seventy-two different spaces by function and size, all generated from a common matrix of 360 x 360 x 360 centimeters and submultiples, complementary to each other like a perfect puzzle.” The pavilion’s make-up is similar to a jigsaw puzzle.

photo_credit Enrico Molteni Architecture
Enrico Molteni Architecture
photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti

Rooms are interconnected with glass doors positioned in line with each other: this allows for expansion of the space, spanning 70 meters (230 feet) to visually connect the entire pavilion from one end to the other. Spaces have at least three different openings to increase the amount of natural light and number of viewpoints. Enrico Molteni’s design enhances the feeling of connectedness, where users experience the space as a total entity.

photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti
photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti

The pavilion is built entirely from dry construction systems. It features a load-bearing wooden structure comprising laminated beams and columns and cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor panels; the perimeter facades include large glazed openings. In each of the two buildings, their respective surface areas are supported by four central circular pillars and appropriately braced perimeter pillars. The portico’s inclined pillars act as bracing, thereby avoiding the use of crosses. Internal partitions are made of plasterboard and protected with a grey PVC coating to a height of 75 centimeters, in continuity with the flooring. Acoustic ceilings are made of wood fiber. The interiors are both bright and unfussy, the somewhat neutral backdrop accented in parts with color, most notably yellow.

photo_credit Enrico Molteni Architecture
Enrico Molteni Architecture
photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti
photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti
photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti

Enrico Molteni has designed a facility with a focus on efficiency and sustainability. In accordance with EU standards, the education center is a “nearly zero-energy building” (NZEB) and is highly energy efficient, achieving a classification of 22.45 kWh/m2 per year. Energy efficiency measures include: mechanical ventilation via a ducted ceiling system; external motorized shading with curtains; winter heating and summer cooling through radiant floor panels; a building automation system; and a photovoltaic panel system with a capacity of 96 kWp — this almost covers the pavilion's energy needs.

photo_credit Marco Cappelletti
Marco Cappelletti

“Completed in the autumn of 2023 after just over a year of construction, this 2,450-square-meter [26,372-square-feet] facility stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovative design in creating inclusive educational environments,” says Enrico Molteni.