The plans drawn up by the firm of Gae Aulenti Architetti Associati to enlarge the Hera Heat Exploitation Plant at Forlì contrive to meet all the customer’s requirements while combining painstaking technological research with innovative ideas of shape and technique. It both highlights the industrial function and softens this - even dematerializes it - by the encasing shell.
The groundplan follows the north-south axis of the adjacent existing plant within the elongated plot of land available. Volumes are compact, roofs flat, the latter forming a play of various levels. The buildings are different from each other but have the same axis giving a unity of appearance as they align along the new roadway network, while there is a functional relationship between the various parts and the use of materials and colours. The idea is to avoid type-casting as an industrial unit; regular shapes are juxtaposed and a chimney is covered and ennobled by a tower serving a symbolic and almost scenic purpose. Distinguished by shape, size and materials, the various buildings follow a sequence corresponding to the waste processing cycle. The stages go from drive-in and weighbridge for lorries, to offices and facilities for staff, more complex units like the heat-exploiter at the heart of the plant, a boiler/furnace and smoke purification system, as well as sheds for thermal cycles and auxiliary services, waste treatment and an electric plant.
The shell was designed to bring out a contrast between parts in reinforced concrete and parts in sheet metal: the former solidly compact, the rest given an optical effect either by light filtering through piercing in the metal and gaps in the mesh, or by reflection of the surrounds off a stainless steel surface. For the heat-exploitation unit the metal structure is formed of double IPE beams connected by trestlework and clad with mesh, pierced slats and reflecting panels. Design here was dictated by the plant which needed to be installed before the outer shell was completed. The use of opaque, semi-transparent and fully transparent infill panels picks out the processing phases and displays some of the machinery, as well as creating light and volume effects by night when the buildings are lit from inside.
The architects opted for different metal sheeting according to function: for infill, in order to make the surfaces dematerialize, as the project brief explicitly stated; for the chimney, slatting in a gleaming Sauternes 900 mirror finish. Research by the architects and Arcelo Mittal’s Arval produced a pierced slat purpose-finished in pre-treated copper verdigris. This clearly cut the cost of real copper and gives a high guarantee of durability in time.
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