Launched in July of 2019, the San Niccolò Workshop Series is a year-long project which approaches the 14th century site of San Niccolò Monastery within the city of Prato, through strategic planning as well as specific architectural interventions.
Throughout the course of the year, and articulated as a series three workshops, we will analyze and redefine the spatial features of the different ‘Orti’ – the system of open courtyards inside the conservatory. In September of 2019 we will start by re-imagining the “Orto di Fabbrica” with a specific focus on the realm of play, subsequently we will then move on the “Orto di Vigna” to investigate the relationship between landscape and heritage and eventually we will land in the “Orto di Gosto” to explore the potentialities of ephemeral structures as triggering devices for togetherness.
Together we will challenge the formal and material traits of these areas, intertwining and challenging notions of preservation with provocative visions. Ultimately, we will raise – through architecture – opportunities for updated pedagogical models and new inclusive programmatic scenarios.
The workshops will be open to students within the fields of architecture, art, design and performative disciplines. Young professionals and academics from different countries will be invited as lecturers and design tutors to stimulate a heterogeneous and eclectic working environment.
Throughout the course of these, we will also deal with the realm of production, working closely with artisans and manufacturers. Specific industries will be selected as collaborators and sponsors, to frame design intentions and address concrete issues of practical feasibility.
Eventually, all the workshops will culminate with a public presentation of the results to the citizenry, highlighting the collective benefits of the designed interventions both for the city of Prato and for the broader disciplinary debate.
Indeed, in between the workshops that will happen physically within San Niccolò, KooZA/arch will launch online competitions (open calls) to gather ideas that (re)de ne the typology of strati ed monasteries in relationship to contemporary urban contexts – addressing issues of architectural re-use, social inclusion and experimental pedagogy.
The whole workshop series will be led by Lemonot and ECÒL with the support of KooZA/rch and Fondazione S. Niccolò.
The Monastery of San Niccolò, located in the homonymous Piazza San Niccolò, rises in the middle of the historical centre of the city of Prato. The history of the monastery dates back to 1323 and the Cardinal of Prato, Niccolò Albertini, who in his testament in Avignon had foreseen a legacy for the construction of a religious structure in the town. Following the death of the authoritative Dominican cardinal, between 1323 and 1328, the core of the building which included the essential monastic communities was erected.
Throughout the following centuries, the structure underwent numerous expansions, especially during the sixteenth and the first half of the eighteenth century when interventions on the structure lead to significant alterations on the disposition of the convent spaces. The most significant of these dates to 1785 when, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Peter Leopold transformed the building into a Conservatory for noble class girls. To respond to the needs of the educational undertaking, a wing in the neo-classical style was built by the tuscan architect Giuseppe Valentini.
The most historic part of the monastery includes the refectory with frescoes of Tommaso di Pietro (1490), the ‘chiostro’ which dates back to the 15th century and the Cappella della Spina (1594) whilst the ‘orto di Gosto’ features one of the most unique Italian examples of a Saint Staircase inspired by the roman typology (according to tradition this was situated within the Palace of Ponzio Pilato in Jerusalem). The church of San Niccolò, which conserves the original thirteenth century portal was newly decorated in 1720, but still features frescoes which date back to the ‘400. In addition to the complex of the Monastery, the houses that enclose the square also represent an architecture of great interest. A plan of the building designed in 1796 and preserved in the library of the convent shows how some of these were already present at the time.
Today the Conservatory of San Niccolò, which since 2006 has been instituted as a Foundation, continues to pursue its cultural and educational ambitions as a private school.