A participatory project, led by MC A - Mario Cucinella Architects - gives life to the new school complex in Pacentro, near L'Aquila

Following the catastrophic earthquakes which peaked in April 2009, the architecture firm MC A - Mario Cucinella Architects led by Mario Cucinella led together with LAP Architettura and with the collaboration of the Viviamolaq, ActionAid and Indire associations, the participatory project reactivates the didactic life of the municipality of Pacentro in the province of L'Aquila, in Abruzzo. A school center, but with something more.

The goal was one: the repair, reconstruction and safety of the school heritage damaged by earthquakes. There were many opportunities, one of them all: to create an educational space that was much more than a simple structure aimed at learning.

A participatory project

The school of Pacentro is the result of a long process of participatory planning launched in 2015, based on the funds allocated after the earthquake of the plan called 'Schools of Abruzzo - The Future in Safety'. The studies, the design, the identification of an end point: 60 students of the school, 20 teachers contributed personally and actively to all the design phases and school staff and over 140 citizens.

The intention - which then translated into concrete and proud evidence - was to create a horizontal project, the result of a response to the needs of those who live the spaces in question every day.

Right from the start, the school was understood as the place where the adults of tomorrow develop their way of being, of learning, of living, of socializing, of knowing: not only, therefore, a structure that hosts frontal lessons, but a real exchange environment.

The project

An ambitious goal, above all because it has been discussed many times but there are few occasions in which it has been experienced before: putting the student at the center, as a human being in full absorption, with all its needs - emotional, educational and social.

To do this, the team has chosen to think starting from one figure, the most primitive of all: the circle. Something within which one feels protected, welcomed, involved. A line that places everyone on the same level: social equality is one of the values ​​considered essential in this project. Like a square, the Pacentro school must be a place of meeting, exchange and gathering. Of contamination of ideas. An ecosystem without conventional limits: the large circular space is central and is used for moments of sharing. Surrounding it, 8 classrooms like a series of 'bubbles': 5 dedicated to primary school, 3 to lower secondary school.

Between colors, light and air, shapes and curved lines (nothing that refers to the 'hard' face of learning), the project proposal envisages the conception of an architectural organism with a circular base, partially hidden by the ground and which welcomes inside trees and gardens.


Pacentro has been permanently present in the Club of the most beautiful villages in Italy since 2001, immersed in the Abruzzo greenery and characterized by a landscape structure that best preserves its authentic rurality. It is rare and already lends itself to something precious. The school was designed in an unusual location: in the hilly area of ​​the Majella National Park, surrounded by the immense Apennine landscape, which with its alternating heights allows you to discover the circular structure little by little.

The large windows chosen to delimit the internal spaces from the external ones have been identified to act as a purely functional filter: the need and the will, here, is to make outdoor life coexist and the one in the classrooms. Teachers can use the fluidity of spaces to integrate lessons and workshops with what nature grants. Students participate in school life influenced by the colors and emotions of the mountain. The cognitive and social routine here is influenced by the passage of time and the seasons.

Manca poco

Lo stato dei lavori – avviati a dicembre 2020 – è a buon punto: la struttura esterna è completata e, internamente, si sta provvedendo alla definizione del pacchetto di copertura con l’introduzione dei tanti lucernari che formeranno il 'cielo stellato' voluto dai bambini di Pacentro. Il prossimo step – in essere a partire dal corrente dicembre – prevede l’attuazione della parte impiantistica, della realizzazione dei divisori fissi e mobili e della pavimentazione in resina colorata.

Entro aprile 2022 è prevista la chiusura dei lavori, ma manca qualcosa: gli arredi e tutti i componenti interni sono ancora in via di definizione. Per questa parte, c’è in progetto il recupero di fondi ma sono ben accette – anzi, sarebbe meraviglioso leggerne – proposte di partecipazione spontanea da parte di aziende di settore.