Tartan School

MoDusArchitects unveils the Tartan School as an extension to an existing building, using an economy of means approach to create shared common spaces for educational programs and the Terlano community.

  • area / size 42,334 sqft
  • Completed 2023
  • Location Terlano, Italy,
  • Architecture office MoDusArchitects has unveiled the Tartan School, an extension to an existing school building located on the outskirts of Terlano’s town centre, nestled in the Adige Valley between the South Tyrolean cities of Bolzano and Merano.

    Tartan School is both a renovation of, and an intervention to, an existing school—an unwieldy 1990s U-shaped structure that had been modified in the early 2000s and that, like many small-town schools, combined a number of different programs into one. To accommodate the growing population, the township of Terlano decides to enlarge the school and opts to maintain the existing structure while adding onto it.

    Like many small townships lining the alpine valleys of South Tyrol, Terlano’s expanding center pushes up against the surrounding vineyards and apple orchards which is where, at this edge, that the school finds itself. This adjacency to both town and field is registered by the schools formal and chromatic strategies, all of which is set against a larger landscape of the traditional alpine fare of reference points and vistas: the historical church tower to the south, the steep mountainside to the north not to mention the medieval profiles of the Neuhaus Castle looking west.

    With an economy of means approach, MoDusArchitects offers new ways in which the three, distinct educational programs of the Nursery School, the Kindergarten and the Youth Center could share fewer but more generous common spaces between them while also making them available to the larger community as needed.

    The two buildings (existing and new) negotiate the site’s 4 meter north-south change in grade. The two separate entrances to the Nursery School and the Kindergarten are located on the upper ground floor level (L00) along the North edge of the property, while entry to the Youth Center is located on the South-facing side of the building on the lower ground floor level (L-01).

    The Nursery School (ages 0-3) occupies the upper ground floor level (L00) of the existing building while the Youth Center’s position remains unchanged at the lower ground floor level (L-01) of the existing building.

    The new wing houses the various functions (group activity rooms, napping room, reading area) of the 4-classroom Kindergarten (100 children, ages 3-6) with the dining hall and movement room / gym located at the lower ground floor level (L-01) in relationship to the outdoor playground.

    This lower level is designed to create a communal floor dedicated to the three programs so that the small auditorium (50-person capacity), the dining hall, and the gym form a series of distinct rooms that can become part of the public domain for events, school recitals, community meetings, etc.

    Although connected in plan and section, MoDusArchitects’ addition necessarily works as an adjacent, semantically separate piece to the clumsy profiles of the existing school; the truncated, zigzagging volume on trapezoidal legs is like a new neighbor that wedges itself between the old school building and the large, winery next door.

    The interiors weave together the disparate spaces of the existing structure and the new addition through a curated selection of robust materials and surface treatments. Distinguished by the brick-red resin flooring, the design of the MDF, custom-built furniture creates a palette of warm tones for the wardrobes and the built-in reading and activity nooks found for example in the Kindergarten’s common areas. Ceiling mounted acoustic panels punctuated by wooden profiles provide a soundscape able to absorb the noise levels of the children as they move around the school freely in their conquest of space.

    Tartan School is part of MoDusArchitects’ decades-long work in educational spaces, with an archive of more than twenty projects in the field, be it completed buildings, projects in the works, competition proposals or publications on the subject. With an interdisciplinary approach, their work delves into the reciprocal relationship between learning and learning environments, examining how the fields of pedagogy and architecture can fuel unexpected solutions to the time-honored program of the school building.

    Design: MoDusArchitects
    Design Team: Sandy Attia, Matteo Scagnol, Laura Spezzoni, Lavinia Antichi
    Contractor: Unionbau
    Photography: Marco Cappelletti