The Etnapolis commercial centre near Catania is a large-scale estate divided into functional units, sector by sector, and a ‘fun centre’ focusing on a multi-auditorium cinema and related services, principally catering.
Designed by Massimiliano & Doriana Fuksas, the centre aims to be a “city of time regained”, providing the public with quality venues and hospitality comparable to a town and its facilities. The estate extends on a lengthwise plan, framed by a lake or moat; it is criss-crossed by pedestrian walkways serving the complex on its various storeys. There are many points of access, from the ground floor or directly at second floor level. The broad staircases piercing the façades through lofty apertures have pronounced visual and structural impact.
Carparks are sited underground and on the roof with a spiral access ramp winding around a cylinder – an open structure with a reinforced concrete core. Inside, the commercial zone divides into broad distribution areas and individual shops. Arcades jink through the buildings and there is great emphasis on escalator/tapis roulant/lift elements emerging onto odd-shaped square-like patios. The underside of such features is enlivened with a different colour scheme on either floor. Colour is again a feature of the seating facilities dotted around the arcades, while inside routes are partly lit by natural lighting from above.
A distinctive quality of the design is how it highlights the long elevations, dividing into two construction systems: transparent double-leaf curtain walling by Focchi, and ventilated façades clad in pre-coated Rheinzink panels provided by Aliva. The long outer shell is formed of large planar blue glass panes knitting the architecture together and serving as a mount on the main side for block letter logos of the commercial centre and the companies forming it. The second (inside) shell, in screen-printed glass mounted on aluminium brackets, picks up the motif of the outside lettering.
The glass panes reflect the surrounding gardens, moat and other buildings in the estate. Bright lighting by night sets off and somehow enlarges the architecture, with its mirror-image in the water. Building dialogues with building in volume and structure. There is a deliberate contrast between the horizontal lines of the ventilated façading and the titanium zinc-clad sections, the materials seeming to express the differing functions of the whole.