Rome’s new Trade Fair stands off the trunk road from the capital to its Fiumicino Airport. It also runs alongside the railway, which is to provide a Fiera station of its own, and is within easy access of the motorway. The complex lies on a NE/SW axis and pivots around the nucleus of the Fair Headquarters, a five-story building providing 3000 sqm of floorspace. This will form the fulcrum of a ninety-two hectare (230 acre) Trade Fair zone complete with its own Congress Centre seating 4000. The terrain needed consolidating as a foundation and 1700 piles were used. Transversal access routes abut on the HQ building, while from it run the two lengthwise axes of the raised pedestrian walkway connecting up the arrangement of display pavilions standing at right angles to it. The project was coordinated by architect Tommaso Valle with consulting engineer Massimo Majowiecki for the steel and roofing components. It both highlights the technological features of the various structures and makes the most of what is a big opportunity for formal expression. The eye is immediately caught by the outline of the roof covering the connecting pedestrian ‘gallery’ which achieves a striking architectural and aesthetic effect. 1.6 kilometres long in all, and rising 6 m off the ground on a structure of perforated concrete columns and girders with a deck in pre-compressed slabs, it also serves to separate service vehicle traffic from the conveyor belt-assisted visitor routes with their access facilities from above. The walkway roof provides the whole complex with its unifying statement. The key to this composite structure is seven bands (or ‘coils’) of stainless steel plate, each 1250mm wide and running 300mm apart from one another. The bands are slung along a hanging chain arrangement, with supporting columns made of twin steel tubes and cross-spars, all painted white. The underside of the steel “coils” provides a reflecting inside ceiling. Stretched across the ‘coils’ is a polyester membrane fastened to tubular metal struts set at regular 4m intervals. Together, walkway and roof combine technological features through a high prefab design choice, and site-specific features like the precision cutting onsite and the steel band anchorage system. They also lend a note of boldness and a connecting identity to the whole fair complex. The display pavilions, 22 of them in all, follow the same technical and visual principles: there are no supporting columns inside the 72m wide halls which can be divided up for many uses at any one time. The bearing structure is composed of side pillars in reinforced concrete at 24m intervals, supporting trusswork girders onto which the depressed-arch roof’s beam structure is fastened. Zenith lighting and pale neutral colours contribute to a pleasing inside effect. The pavilions are lined with infill panels in galvanised sheet steel on steel profiles. A curtain wall in structural glass gives a light transparent note to the Headquarters building which is the hub and coordinating symbol of the Fair.
December 2007 - January 2008: “Studio Valle - 50 years of Architecture” Organized in the space of the ex juvenile prison within the complex of San Michele in Rome that has already hosted other important contemporary architecture shows, the exhibition will retrace the whole sequence of Tommaso Valle’s working life. In an excursus of fifty years of architecture, the initial stunning grand designs will be presented along with the most recent ones as the Region of Puglia See and the European Council See in Bruxelles - with Philippe Samyn and Partners and Buro Happold - of future realization.