Architect Valentino Gareri has released a conceptual design for an early education center that integrates precautions for COVID-19. The Tree-House School is intended to serve students at multiple levels, from kindergarten to secondary school, while introducing them to an alternative space of learning. Gareri was inspired to create this project as a study of architecture meeting the needs of a post-COVID world. He believes that the pandemic has further proven our desire to connect with nature and has also forced architects to reevaluate sustainability measures and adaptation.
“The schools of the future will have to be designed under a new point of view: rather than just considering criteria of sustainability, they will have to embrace the ability-to-sustain the new condition where the pandemic put the entire society,” Gareri explains in reference to Tree-House School. This belief may have inspired the flexibility inherent in the project as seen through modularity and a range of space types. Indoor and outdoor areas are intermingled (for better ventilation), and parts of the building could be transformed into spaces that go beyond learning—such as residential or medical centers.
The overall form includes two interlocking rings comprising modular segments of about 600 square feet. Each module is made mostly of cross-laminated timber and has access to one of the two courtyards created by the rings. The circular design also allows students and teachers to maintain a visual connection to the outdoors and natural light.
Green measures implemented in the project include usable green roofs, natural conditioning through cross-ventilation, solar panels, and a rainwater collection system. Materials used throughout the project were also chosen with sustainability measures in mind but were mainly used to blend into the surrounding natural environment.
Gareri’s proposal emphasizes the importance of designing with nature and critically considering the meaning of sustainability. As students around the world return to physical classrooms, many may wish their school looked a bit more like Tree-House School.