Italy 2017 Updated

Thank you Riddhi, Yancy, Lea, Hanifah, Carys, Peter, Jonathan, Rob and Hani for all your help this summer. I hope you will enjoy seeing the school as it is now. There are still things to change and the greater developments in 2 years await. Is this the school you remember?

We recently had a visit from INDIRE, the National institute for the re-development of Education in Italy. They where very impressed with the changes… The planters will be part of the future changes, Pete, your winch is now part of Lola’s tree house, but the many other elements are now part of the school. …

A job well done thanks again


Watch this space for project “PLAY SPACE” same school just the outside this time.

Green Gown Award 2017!

We are very excited to announce that we are finalists in the Green Gown Awards, which recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the UK. Hands-on-Bristol has been submitted for the community category for the way in which we use the project as a live architecture lab to co-create positive changes in the city.

See our film entry here:

and find out more about the other finalists here:

GGA 2017 Finalist image.jpg

Italy School Refurb June 14

8:00 am and the dramatic notes of the piano resonate around the house and draws us reluctantly from our slumber. Still, it puts you in a better frame of mind than your typical alarm and its always followed by the hissing of coffee working its way through the espresso pot.

Not wanting to be late a second time for Massimo, the School Director, we all pile in the car and zoom off to Citta di Castello. Massimo is acknowledging our efforts with a personal tour of the city, releasing golden nuggets of architectural wisdom on the way. He pointed out how the archways can be read, with each type representing a different period of time in the city's evolution. He linked history with architectural typology, showing us towers strategically demolished due to the threat that arose when gunpowder was invented. We saw the a grand palace built by an influential 15th C family and listened to the story of the lady who dropped her hanky on the men below... We saw a 500 dead saint and deconstructed a painting by Raffaello.

Ice cream for a welcome burst of energy then a fruitless search for hoop screw for Rhiddi's toilet flush intervention. Back home for sandwiches and a siesta. The evening was spent on our making projects-painting, welding, sawing and glueing what we broke. Not to mention running Marcus's new plane through a screwhead.

Italy School Refurb June 13

All  has disappeared into a sea of boxes, old books tat and disorder. I am beginning to think what have I got my poor students into, can I really justify all this box shifting and cupboard emptying as DESIGN or Make? (hard sell needed)

Everyone worked hard today ferrying stuff up and down. Thank you team, you have done such a great job. The Maestra  agreed that there is 20 years worth of collecting, hording gone on… (we are maybe half way)

How does this really fit into the design process, does it have value?

Having thought about it since, I believe the value is in engaging with your community, you have to get stuck in to achieve change. It is easy to talk about doing things and hoping someone else will do the dirty work. With that approach it is easy for nothing to happen and rubbish to gather.  As architects we often imagine what may be on the shelfor in a cupboard. Today we have seen the reality of what people put on shelves, in boxes and in dead end corners.

Space and objects need to have life and movement   

I hope, if we make the right design the clutter will not gather again.

Italy School Refurb Day 5

Friday 9th June – Practical hands on Bristol / Monte

After piles of information absorption within the first 4 days –  Friday began with a late start but soon got off to a buzz when arange of power tools where whipped out  for us to test and experience how they work. Including routers, drills, saws. We also explored different recycled materials and  used whatever we could lay our hands on!

Rob initiated assembling the design of a multifunctional robust table / storage unit. He soon discovered that the detailed connections did not function as the design did, as there were arising problems. Following on from this, more solutions / issues were ascending that achieved a range different techniques including a more complex exciting table solutions. The discovery of a table that can fold over so both sides can be used in different ways. (pictured)

Pete started by defining the constraints of weights as the structure was soon discovered to be too heavy. He needed to find a way to minimise the weight of each planter to allow each planter to be raised and lowered on a devised mechised raising and lowering system. Pete then spent some times therapeutically stripping the insulation from mains electrical cable and using a drill to wind the three copper wires into a stronger chord which will link the planters together. More design iterations were made in the sketchbook awaiting the sourcing of bicycle parts for the raising/loweing mechanism.



Italy School Refurb Day 4

Day 4.....

10am.  We arrive at the school bright and early. The children of Monte all come into the hall greeting us with “bonjourno” and smiles. They are all, by now, quite familiar to us – we’ve been around 3 days with our cameras, measuring tapes, sketch books, including sharing the delicious 3-course lunch meals and making our best efforts to breach the language barrier with hand gestures and speaking the little Italian we have been absorbing, and the classic way - speaking English in the Italian accent.

Before we start with the slideshow, we distribute copies of the plan of the school and ask the children to map with a line the routes they take for their everyday activities like from entering the school to the location of where they hang their coats, their respective classrooms to where they have lunch. We also ask them to star and draw in their favorite spaces and activities. It gives us an interesting insight into spaces dearly loved and the ‘not-so’ used spaces.

We proceed with the slides of various possible design ideas for various spaces with pictures and diagrams they can understand and we can see the excitement build (on both sides) as they respond to our question – which would you like to see happen first? – by picking fairly all the slides!

It’s all well timed - as we are about to finish, we here the lunch bell (un-planned of course).

Italy School Refurb Day 3

Day 3…

Back at Monte, we presented to the Director a consolidation of the schemes he has employed in the two other schools and a synopsis of our early design responses. The meeting was well received and many approving nods and flamboyant hand gestures where seen. Given the go-ahead from the Director, we spent the afternoon taking notes around the school. We took an inventory of useful furniture, measured rooms, defined the site boundary and assessed options for spatial rearrangement.

The afternoon was enjoyed at base, recharging our minds by taking on some physical work. We shifted 12 barrow loads of sand down the garden to level a base for the paddling pool.


Italy School Refurb Day 2

Day 2…

After an icebreaking dinner the previous night, we met with the director of the communes schools for a long day ahead. At San Pio, the first destination, the director briefed the five of us on his ideas on schools and his system. This followed by a tour of the school, showing us his ideas for child autonomy and ‘body and mind’ system. It did not take us long to see the real difference in organization between both Monte and San Pio – San Pio taking the win. Not only did the level of organization ignite a smile on our face, but the altitude of thinking behind the use of space. It became apparent that this was a vocal point to make San Pio an exciting place to learn. We took many ideas away from the school, such as the times table staircase, laboratories, free spaces and coloured walls for concentration etc.

Once the tour of San Pio was completed, we went on to the school of San Filippo, an historic school with exciting architecture. This school, under the control of the Director has successfully introduced a contemporary learning atmosphere within the precious context of ancient buildings. History is a force of identity for the school, with the Director taking great pride in reading aloud the architecture. A vertical garden employed within a courtyard as a response to the lack of green space in this inner-city school.

Piadinas for lunch and back to the ranch for some late night presentation preparation.

Italy School Refurb Day 1

June 5th 4AM MONDAY...

Rob, Pete and Jonathan arrive in Umbria, looking dazed after a 27 hour journey. Riddhi was polite enough to arrive midday, saving Marcus vital archi-reflection time. 

6 hours later, the 5 of us were greeted by the flamboyant headmistress Guiseppina at the Borgo Antico school. There was little time to get our bearings before a plate of pasta arrived; and another plate, and another plate. The lunch was eventful in itself, which required a certain amount of endurance, but was the ideal way to become familiar with the order of the school.

A guided tour of the building with the teachers identified some issues with the current setup. The creative output of the school seems to be double edged sword as high volume of work lines the walls, creating a strong sense of identity but work is not rotated and many pieces have lost their relevance to the current students. Various neglected spaces have become homogeneous material stores and are filled to the brim with lots of the same stuff that is impossible to use and poses a fire hazard. 

Back to Marcus's house for a welcome dinner with copious amounts of wine.  

Hands on in New Start Magazine

We have written a review of last year's Masters of Architecture Live projects for New Start Magazine. The article discusses the role of live projects as a bridge between academia and communities before presenting the Ebenezer Gate, Under the Flyover and Reclaiming Totterdown projects. Read the article, titled '‘Live’ architecture helps residents reclaim streets in Bristol' online here.

Hands-on-building: Involving communities through live build projects

This event celebrates inspirational projects in the south west, including a ‘design as you build’ pavilion in Watchet’s old pleasure garden and projects from UWE’s ‘Hands-on-Bristol’ programme, and explores the potential for future community-led ‘livebuild’ projects locally.

With broadcaster and architect Piers Taylor; Marc Dix of LT Studio Landscape Architects; Elena Marco, Rachel Sara and Sally Daniels from UWE; and community partners.

Hands-on-Bristol is a collaboration between the Bristol School of Architecture, University of the West of England and the Bristol community, that seeks to encourage and strengthen knowledge exchange between education programmes and local communities through collaboration in live projects.

Piers Taylor is a renowned award winning architect, broadcaster and academic. He co-presents the BBC2 Series ‘The House that £100k Built’ with Kieran Long, which demonstrates to self-builders how to do more, with less. He is known for his resourceful ‘thinking outside of the box’ and his challenging of mainstream convention in architecture and in education.

Marc Dix is director of LT Studio Landscape Architects. With more than 20 years’ experience, he has worked on a wide range of projects from educational facilities to residential and commercial schemes from the UK to Singapore, China and throughout South East Asia. LT Studio Landscape Architects create innovative, striking and sustainable spaces that have a positive impact on all who use them.

-Talk/discussion at the Architecture Centre: Wednesday 20 January 2016, 18:00 - See more at: