Architecture Architettura Edilizia Scolastica education facilities edlizia scolastica Education education facilities schools building Scuola Scuola italiana

The scattered school: beyond the classrooms


The scattered school: beyond the classroom.

Translation by Emilio Campagnoli, Samantha Broker and Rosa Serena Tetro

Versione in italiano:


My classroom en plein air. Giuseppe Campagnoli 2013

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Research on architecture for learning and on what are called education facilities or school buildings is growing. But not all that glitters is gold and in my experience I have noticed that, as Manfredo Tafuri said, at least 9 books out of 10 must be read diagonally. I have not found anything actually new and groundbreaking in literary essays and experiments carried out in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

Change can start from an idea that is already described in my book The Architecture of School published by Franco Angeli, Milan, 2007. In the book I suggest an innovative idea of learning spaces. It is time to start a wider debate and, hopefully, put the ideas into practice.

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“The Architecture of School

An idea for culture and learning spaces

 “The Architecture of School, to paraphrase the title of the famous book Architecture of the City by Aldo Rossi, is the result of more than thirty years’ experience in the field of culture, art, school, architecture and public administration. It is neither a handbook on the theory of design, nor a technical essay. On the contrary. It is partially an auto-biographical reflection, a “poetical” proposal addressed to designers, administrators and workers in the field of cultural heritage and education. It aims to finally build and strengthen the idea of learning spaces and the exhibition of culture beyond fashion, clichés and the lack of expertise of many -maybe too eclectic – professionals.The first part of the book, after a short theoretical introduction, contains an historical-architectural digression and a summary of the functional and formal evolution of the places in Italy where culture, pedagogy and didactics are created and shared.

The second part which consists of many chapters regarding many compositional and planning aspects, presents the concrete proposal for a new architectural style for buildings which are usually neglected.  The only exceptions are the rare “white elephants” and “monuments” to administrators, to sponsors or to “famous architect divas” of the time. At the end there is a series of pictures, as well as the author’spersonal thoughts and experiences, which conclude the topics discussed in the book with an open view.

 In the chapter “The stylistic and architectural principles for an unconventional design” of my book The Architecture of School I wrote: “The city tells us where and how we can make our school. The relationship between the city and the school building is also the outcome of a kind of uninterrupted activity. It is therefore important to bear in mind that the function of teaching and the right to learn occur in other places which are not to be considered the result of random chance. They are an integral part of the pedagogical and educational experience. This is also a way of overcoming the sociological clichés of the open school thanks to a more up-dated idea of total school or rather of global school where the building is the only starting point and at the same time the only point of return. This is a synthesis of many educational experiences which take place in many important places around the city and territory. The static condition of knowledge trapped in a desk, in a corridor, in the classroom or in the rooms of a museum does not make us more open-minded, and gives us distorted ideas of reality which is in fact always in motion. After almost three years of studying, research and participation in an international contest organized by Architecture for Humanity – The classroom for the future – the first theoretical documentary evidence about the Scattered School was published on Educationdue.0 in 2011 and 2012. Afterward other contributions about this subject appeared in specialized magazines and newspapers. Two short self-produced pamphlets about architecture were also published. To complete the magic circle connecting education and architecture in the new millennium, my encounter with the professor Paolo Mottana, who teaches philosophy of education at the university of Milano Bicocca and whose work focuses on counter-education, was crucial. The outcome of this encounter will be a pamphlet, published in March 2017 and whose italian title is La città educante – Manifesto della educazione diffusa (The teaching city – A Manifesto of scattered education).

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The school – place or non-place?

The scattered school – provocation or utopia?

Adolf Loos said: ”When a man finds a mound of earth in a wood which marks a poetical transformation of nature caused by man – that is architecture.”

Locus is a far more profound concept than place. It is a mix of concrete meanings, of memory, of stories and of love. Even school should be a locus – a timeless and genuine area full of history and poetry. The history of building schools in Italy is an old one. As indeed is the one about school itself, that no pseudo reform has yet succeeded in renewing. The quality of the very few good practice models always involves three elements – adequate investment, organizing new didactics, and administration of schools by a single authority, which is necessary for planning a multidisciplinary team with years of experience in schooling. The school buildings must be inside the city and not in the outskirts and they must be recognizable both from the inside and from the outside, just like it should be for a monument – a church, a city hall, a theater, etc. For the same reason it is important to start a reflection on the architects who do not value the teaching of creativity and love for the main places of our life. Like the places dedicated to education where the technical function and the technological developments have to be the priority.

What is different still is the humanistic connotation of architecture which contrasts with that of naïve functionalism. This eludes every value of formal nature and does not even satisfy functional needs, if it is true that the necessity of giving a meaning to learning spaces is completely monopolized by trivial, but unavoidable, security issues. The place in and of itself would indeed be safe and protective if we thought of it as a clear idea of school and an idea of architecture. These two points are bound together by the will of building inclusive and welcoming spaces, which are at the same time stimulating and never completely discovered and explained, and seem new every day to those who experience and use them. The school is a physical and intellectual space, is culturally independent and can never be subjugated to a mechanical efficiency – a place of discovery and of introspection, of sharing, of dialogue and also of the need for loneliness and reflection which is no longer the classroom or the corridor, but perhaps the square or the street, the arcaded sidewalks and the yard. Today educational spaces are gradually becoming more and more closed and limited, only radicalizing, the meaning of education and training, thereby losing true creativity and restricting art to accessory poetry and language, and spaces to functionalism and exasperated technical systems. As if a classroom with a laptop on every desk changed and elevated the trivial value of physical space, transforming it into a real place. School, like any other human activity since the origins of human beings, who advanced together with learning and relationships, is marked by concrete signs of the surrounding environment where people learn – it could be a forest or a cave, a hut, an arcaded sidewalk or a yard, a cloister, a cathedral or an abbey. Just as significantly, today it can be a new space, but at the same time an old one, full of symbols of the history of teaching and of learning how to live.

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Beyond the classroom

We need to overcome the school building to reach a complex territory for learning – the school city. A provocation which could become a research model for the school of the future. This is not something entirely new, because, essentially, this was the same concept of the school in the Middle Ages – it consisted of the palace and the monastery, the library and the cloister, the schola and otium, which were rarely a unique physical space. In fact, the place for learning could really be the whole city and territory. The classroom would be open to the world and made up of a thousand different and themed rooms, ranging from the physical universe to the virtual one of the web. Today we barely tolerate schools being in a single building. School is not static but, almost because of its etymology itself, it is dynamic through space and time. The ways of accessing information, learning and practice cannot stand the walls and limits of a unique chosen place. Architecture and education should adapt to the new necessities of knowledge and of growing people – they cannot remain the same through the centuries. Aldo Rossi taught me and convinced me that over time architecture separates the shape from the function – there is no better way to create spaces, the ultimate ones, that is to say, spaces for learning. Starting from an idea of architecture and of school which harmonize, this could later become a utopia which, over time, could transform into a marvelous reality. For first and intermediate level schools, it would be sufficient to plan a proximity schedule every day with a combined transport system, to allow for the the pupils to be transported, along with a system of vertical continuity – pupils of primary, middle and high school in the same places and laboratories and sometimes even sharing the same facilities at the same time – every day in a different place respecting the needs of theoretical and practical learning.

The school should certainly be reorganized in an extremely flexible way to overcome all of the barriers due to a series of dysphoric laws on security, which equate bluntly speaking, places for work with places for learning, with all the relevant limitations. Creating a new set of specific rules and adapting the different spaces of the city to the classes and to the groups of pupils and students, we would change the current idea of school, which is generally still anchored to the concept of space and time. Every public place in the city – the town hall, the library, the multi-media library, the laboratories and the university – would have special and equipped spaces to learn, and this would prevent groups of learners from becoming stuck for hours in the same environment, always in front of the same blackboard and the same panorama. A base-building would be enough. It would be a symbolic product, a kind of portal of reduced dimensions, located in an important and central area of the city, with administration services and some non-specialized meeting points. It could be the starting point towards the virtual and real classrooms scattered over the territory, a meeting point at the beginning of the school day. The school building, as we know it today, would be replaced by a structure which functions as the entrance to a kind of park of knowledge, an innovative substitute for the traditional classrooms and specialized spaces that, alas, still today are only classrooms, furnished and equipped differently.

The school without walls

The problem is that we see the school, and other detached and specific buildings, as a product. Classrooms, laboratories and gyms are already part of the territory – all we need to do is adapt them, connect them and use them. Today many people still cling to the idea of the building and barely try to venture beyond the concept of classroom, furniture and corridor. This is nothing new since we can read something similar in an essay from 1914 entitled “Chiudiamo le scuole” (Let’s close the schools) , written by Giovanni Papini, the controversial writer and essayist active in the early 1900s. Why do we not meet the challenge of a school beyond and without walls? Now we have to put words into action, trying to simulate a school without walls in a real society involving all the possible actors. In the volume Beyond the Walls there is a spark of a concrete proposal and a possible path to verify the feasibility. Pedagogy, city planning and architecture have to be the main elements. When Papini wrote “Let’s close the schools”, he meant they had to be reopened elsewhere and in another way to produce a different education, sometimes a counter-education and different architecture, sometimes ultra-architecture. I admit that the idea is complex and that, for its implementation, it would require different planning of school spaces and time. School independence, flexibility and school periods cannot evolve at all if they are limited to classrooms, corridors, offices and non-flexible laboratories, and without any kind of exchange or connection with the territory. It is time to really change our point of view and go back to a sort of peripatetic school – possible, desirable, modern. To prepare a simulation in a real context and which wwould be statistically compatible with the project of the scattered school, the collaboration of the administration of a medium-sized city would be necessary. Furthermore we would also need the participation of other institutions and bodies, such as mobility supervisors, a school of architecture as well as others of educational sciences, and at least one for each educational level – nursery school, elementary school, middle school, high school and university. Starting from that we could plan a test action which could give us some reliable data on the feasibility of the idea and on its adaptability to different and wider contexts, maybe in large metropolitan areas. The school is not a ghetto in the suburbs, nor a closed space limited by walls and divisions, nor a unique and monolithic building – the school is scattered and en plein air.

The aforementioned encounter of elective affinities with Professor Mottana, prompted us to sketch a common view for a revolutionary education together with its spaces – a counter-education in ultra-architecture with the aim of achieving new conceptions of education and culture. A hundred years ago literacy for everybody was a utopia, just like spreading the educational message across a territory. I also hope that the idea of freeing learners and teachers from walls and from a condition of non-movement could become reality over time, with the concept of a school referring to time rather than to space.

Something moves…

Giuseppe Campagnoli

The 7th July 2017

The “Manifesto” of education cities


Architect Giuseppe Campagnoli

Campagnoli was born in Recanati (Marche, Italy) in 1949. He graduated at the Liceo Classico Giacomo Leopardi in 1968. He obtained his university degree in architecture in 1973-74 and his qualification in architecture at the University of Naples in 1974. He became teacher of geometric disciplines and architecture in 1975. Architect from 1975 until 1991 and from 2006 until 2012. Teacher of geometric disciplines and architecture at the Schools of Arts from 1986 until 1991. School principal of the Schools of Arts from 1991 until 2001. Head of the Ufficio Studi (didactics office) of the School Direction office of the Education Ministry for the Region Marche from 2001 until 2006. Architect, researcher and essayist from 2006 to 2010. Researcher and essayist from 2012 until today. From 2006 to 2012 advisor in the educational field and for the e-learning of the Civil Protection department of the Region Marche. Founder and head of the Atelier di Architettura Escuola and for the network ARTNETWORK ITALIA until 2013. Former president and member of the scientific committee of the cultural association Safety Education and Training Agency of Matelica. Member of the assessment committee of the Accademia di Design, recognized as Poliarte of Ancona and on the list of experts available for projects on creativity and design of the EACEA at the European Commission until 2013. Founder in 2013 and administrator of the network RESEART on artistic subjects which began with the blog of the same name. Member and spokesperson of the group for the creation of the association ArtemDocere in support of teaching art history and educational activities in the field of Arts in general. Many publications and projects in the fields of education, architecture and sustainable development.

Author of many essays and publications on architecture, schools and topical issues:

Books and essays

“L’architettura della città” Franco Angeli Milano 2007

“I luoghi da amare” Secondo manifesto della scuola marchigiana 2010 USR Marche

Voce edilizia scolastica in “Voci della scuola” Tecnodid 2010

 Letters on La Stampa di Torino:

“Costruire scuole” Ottobre 2010

“La scuola oltre le mura” Dicembre 2014

 Essays on Educationdue.0 Edizioni RCS:

“La scuola luogo o non luogo?” Aprile 2011

“La scuola diffusa: provocazione o utopia? Gennaio 2012

“Linee guida per l’edilizia scolastica: un passo avanti? Giugno 2013

“Gli spazi della scuola nel territorio” Dicembre 2014

“Quale modello di orario” Marzo 2016

 Essays on“La Rivista dell’istruzione” Maggioli editore Rimini

“E se la chiamassimo architettura scolastica?” Dicembre 2011

“Aule senza confini” Agosto 2014

 Workshop “La scuola diffusa nella città educante” on “La scuola diffusa: oltre le aule” Cesena (Italy) 12 Settembre 2016

 “La scuola senza mura” sul Blog ReseArt ( ebooks:

“Questione di stile” and “Oltre le aule” ReseArt Productions Pesaro (Italy) 2014 e 2015

March  2017 the book with Paolo Mottana “La città educante” Manifesto della educazione diffusa. Come oltrepassare la scuola.


 Copyright Giuseppe Campagnoli 2017


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