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Ricerca per l'innovazione della scuola italiana

Research Structure 5 – School architecture and furnishing: designing new educational spaces and adapting existing learning environments

The INDIRE research on school architecture began in 2007 with the “inhabiting the school” project and was subsequently developed with the aim of highlighting the importance of school environments and the impact that physical spaces can have on learning processes and on the quality of school life.

The research path is part of a national framework project regarding the school building heritage that has an evident need for architectural renewal: in fact, about 58% of the total school buildings were built before 1975; 30% of which among the 1975 and 1990, and only 12% of them were built in the last 30 years. In addition, 29% of the buildings are adapted for educational purposes, even though they are not environments designed for school education.

Some trends emerge from the analysis of the main development guidelines in the school building sector at an international level: the need to differentiate spaces; the introduction of flexibility and multifunctionality in the design of spaces and the need to open the school to the territory.

Based on these premises, the Structure promotes a research activity that is driven by the need to overcome the frontal instruction model by rethinking the learning spaces.

The Research Structure has adopted a theoretical framework, from which the INDIRE Manifesto on the educational spaces of the Third Millennium school has been developed, which represents the reference for subsequent in-depth studies and the documentation of cases of excellence.

The transfer of the research results is realized through contributions to the drafting of calls for tenders for the design of new school buildings, participation in judging committees of design competitions, training interventions aimed at architects, head teachers and teachers, development of guidelines, stipulation of memoranda of understanding with local authorities or associations of stakeholders in the sector.

Investment plans in the school building sector can result in purely technical and material interventions aimed at modernizing the building stock in terms of energy consumption and safety; on the other hand, they can also represent an opportunity to activate a virtuous process of transformation of the school system. In this second case, school building becomes a driving force capable of supporting a broader organizational and methodological change.

General objectives

  1. Promoting the design of schools based on the 1+4 Manifesto in a synergistic perspective accounting for pedagogy, architecture and local authorities’ actions;
  2. Developing tools capable of accompanying the school in the organization and use of flexible environments and innovative spaces;
  3. Investigating the ways of using innovative spaces based on the framework developed by INDIRE (Manifesto 1 +4) after their occupation.

The general objectives arise from needs expressed by schools (need for the designing or redesigning of environments, identification of new organizational solutions for the space, training in the use of reconfigured spaces) and from the need to deepen some lines of research, such as those regarding students’ well-being, space as an active “agent” and accompanying the school in the use the potentials offered by the new environments.

Research questions

  • Can a change in the organization of spaces trigger a process of transformation of educational practices?
  • What are the prerequisites and actions to be undertaken so that the modification of the spaces corresponds to a process of transformation of the educational model?
  • How does the school appropriate the transformed spaces and what didactic practices does it develop in the new context?
  • How is the synergy between pedagogy, architecture and action of local authorities promoted?

Context – Target population

The activity of Structure 5 has as its main recipients the users of the new learning environments, that is, students, teachers and head teachers of schools of all levels. The rethinking of learning environments also directly involves the administrators of local authorities, technical offices, industry professionals (mainly engineers and architects), the school furniture production sector and the related sales and distribution network throughout the country.

Institutional collaborations and research collaborations


  • National Council of Architects, Landscape Planners and Conservators
  • USR Tuscany
  • Metropolitan City of Florence
  • Municipality of Bagno a Ripoli “Teresa Mattei” school district of Bagno a Ripoli (Florence)
  • Municipality of Calenzano (Florence)
  • Interactive Classroom Working Group (ICWG)
  • Development Bank of the Council of Europe and European Bank for Investments
  • University Of Melbourne Australia Memorandum of Understanding
  • Edith Cowan University Australia Memorandum of Understanding