“Learning Unchained” Kids Factory renovation concept design is for an architectural design competition organized by YAC. Object of the competition is the conversion of a 27,000 sqm former pottery factory into what it would probably become the largest and most innovative campus for childhood in the world. This ‘Neverland’ provides 360 degree services and facilities, including educational buildings, playgrounds, sports facilities and dormitories for 0-16 years old children and youth and it is meant to become a prime destination for school and family trips, injecting new vitality into the area!
The project location, Laveno Mombello, is about 75 kilometres northwest of Milan. Traditions, arts, devotion and culture are shining silently in this historical place which is already one of the most attractive destinations along Lago Maggiore.
The pottery itself is an historical building. Vaulted halls, a multitude of columns, countless bridges, lofts and multiple lev¬els are connected with each other by chasms and court-yards, generating what it seems to be a maze.
The complexity of cognitive experience in childhood shows that learning in kids is increased by a multitude of experiences not necessarily linked with each but that create a network in their neural system. Furthermore, being the object of design a factory, we decided to relate the process of learning to the process of production but reversed: we decided to break the linear and dull production chain concept into a multitude of experiences, non-sequential but equally important for the kids. So let ‘Learning Unchained’ begin!
MUDI’s design keeps the most of the original structure. Eventually, the approximately 4.000 m2 of additional areas created. It is not just out of budget concerns, but also to keep and preserve the former industrial remains as memory of the past.
A clear Program distribution allows many space configurations without generating conflicts between buildings, creating multiple scenarios for different activities and requirements.
The Youth Center has a more public character and provides services to both to the community and the kids in the campus, especially in terms of outdoor space. The program includes sports facilities, a soccer field, a gym an outdoor climbing wall, a skate park, a cafeteria and practice rooms for rent (art workshops, music rehearsal, private lessons, etc…). The main access to this area is on the South boundary, directly connected with the outdoor kid playground, the pets area and the public park.
The largest design intervention consists in the division of the Warehouse area into 3 different playgrounds, each one with a specific character (Sensorial experiences related to ‘touch’ are in the first block: rock climbing, hiding, jumping on nets, diving in pools of balls; water activities and sports for the second block; indoor/outdoor sports for the third block). The three main blocks are interlinked by outdoor space where the kids can continue their games from indoor to outdoor. Foldable door panels on the ground floor of the Playground Buildings can be totally open to create a visual connection through the whole plot and evoke the space continuity feeling from the original Factory building.
The multi-functional plaza is a connective space between Educational Building, Dormitory, and Indoor Playgrounds is a flexible space that can be used for diverse outdoor activities like music concerts, parties, fairs, markets, performances, dance, acts, movie projection, speeches, etc…
A 400 meters running track works as a main path to go around and connect the playgrounds and the dormitory building, 60% of the track is 3m elevated from the ground level to give better views of the complex.
The material used to cover the roofs and parts of the façade is ceramic and the technique used is the mosaic. The idea comes from the will to keep a strong link with the past, using the former products of the factory. The hue of the ceramic chips mimics the terracotta roofs of the surrounding houses of Laveno Mombello.
In order to give the kids a building that stimulates their imagination just looking at it, we came up with a solution that makes it changing every day of the year by using mirror facades. This system has two important benefits: it makes the large playground blocks virtually ‘disappear’ reflecting their surroundings and it reflects the oak trees along the edge of the plot giving the perception of a much larger green space. Another way to make the building’s façade changing every time is letting the kids play with it! This is why in the playground blocks, all the walls at the first floor are made out of chalkboard stone so that the kids can scribble and draw anything, anytime.