The main idea behind the competition proposal is to open the currently closed piazza over the archeological excavations for the visitors. The future school of restoration is prevised to be semi-underground structure inside the wall of the existing volcanic rock hill. One future real building with an approximate height of 10m erected on this site will complete the wall of buildings along the street and will make the excavations absolutely invisible and any possible view towards them impossible. That is why the new building is invisible and the square belongs again to the people.
The school is planned on three main levels, as the top one is a new square with columns and arches coming to make the connections with the archeological monuments and evoke the construction layers from the palimpsest before. The square itself is actually the roof of the future school below and in the middle of it is the main entrance to the building. On the south part of the square are the arches where all the visitors, tourist or the people from the neighborhoods and the city can enjoy the view over the excavations as well as the sea behind in the horizon.
In the center of the piazza, there is square opening from which two ramps are going downwards to the first semi-underground level. The roof/square of the building has the form of a roof of a typical Roman house from the period of the preserved artifacts of Herculaneum. At the same time in this way, the roof slopes are gently going down to the center making one different urban square and supporting the no-borders-idea to use mainly ramps. This totally sky open square is also a place to erect a significant piece of art in the middle of it.
The middle area on level -3.80 is the contemporary ‘perystilium’ space of the building surrounded by columns, connecting internal and external areas. Around this ‘open garden’ space are the welcoming desk/reception and staff offices, all of them open to the peristyle space and taking daily light from it. On the northern part of this floor is located the first level of the library with reading space and natural light, as well as the vertical connections of the building in the darkest corners – elevators and staircases. On this level are located the 4 classrooms, all of them orientated towards the excavations of Herculaneum and taking natural light from the south, at the same time shaded with deep terraces in front of the rooms.
On the lowest level at -8.80 are located the 2 laboratories, the rest of the library (spaces requiring no direct sunlight), cafeteria-bar and again in the corners – the connections between levels, plant- and technical spaces. In the middle of this semi-underground level, there is a ‘dome’ space which is to make all the necessary internal connections. On east and west are located the two restoration laboratories, totally open on the south with a rich view over the excavations to make a bridge between the main subject of the school and the main source which is just within stone’s throw distance on the site.
Between the two laboratories is the café with beautiful view over the ‘scavi di Ercolano’, which surely is placed to be a favorite spot of all the students and at the same time to bring inside the main treasure of the site – the ancient Herculaneum, projected on the window as a real time-lapse living wallpaper in all the four seasons. In the middle of the café-bar is an elevator which makes small and simple, but the very important physical connection for the students between the school and the archeological area. A tiny straight corridor is prevised to lead to this elevator on level -19,50 without disturbing the existing landscape but naturally integrated within the soft volcanic rocks on the hill’s slope.
The entire school is to be built on the rock, connected with the theme of the Herculaneum itself – an ancient city, entirely carved and called back to life from the volcanic tuffs. It is a metaphor of an ancient layout evoked on the border between ‘in’ and ‘out’, between rock and sky or between light and darkness. The one and only external façade are paraphrasing the existing arches in a contemporary way – an order of 3, 4 and 5 arches in rows one over another. As to the internal spaces, they are also following a metaphor of ancient spaces which we can find on the side – a game of lighter or darker rooms with domes, tunnels, squares, etc. always connected with the idea about more scenographic and theatrical use of the light.