Shades of Cotto - Electricity converter substation inspired by the Tuscan countryside
Italian studio Pierattelli Architetture wins the architecture contest to design the new Suvereto electricity converter substation.
The contest was promoted by Terna - the company that manages the high and extra-high voltage national power grid in Italy - with agreement from the Suvereto town council and the local community.
The new converter substation is an additional piece in the modernisation of SA.Co.I.3, the current electrical connection between Sardinia, Corsica and the Italian peninsula.
Pierattelli Architetture has come up with an evocative design that blends seamlessly with its setting and offers a new architectural take. Modular facades made of terracotta elements (a traditional local material) are fastened to steel cables. The texture of the terracotta absorbs the nuances of the surrounding landscape and reflects its tones, beauty and warmth. Such tones are also alluded to in the rust-effect paintwork of the entrance gate and in sections in the wall. Native plants such as olive, cypress and pine trees create a sense of continuity with the nearby farmland and at the same time recall the cultural identity of the area.
THE ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
The Suvereto converter station has been designed by Florentine architecture practice Pierattelli Architetture to blend fluidly with the colours of the surrounding landscape.
Inspired by the Tuscan countryside and the local farmland and vegetation, the new design is industrial but dynamic and changeable in character and creates a continuous dialogue with the landscape.
At the very heart of the design is terracotta (with warm, textural nuances): combining earth, water, air and fire, it is the main material used and has the ability to adopt the nuances of the surrounding lands and create links with tradition.
THE FACADES AND MODULES
The main building features solar-shade facades composed of terracotta geometric elements fastened to steel cables. The modular system creates a rhythmic surface pattern, which is also achieved through the terracotta tiles with their different dimensions and tones. The latter (in squares, rectangles and strips) are fastened to steel cables using metal anchors, making it easy to replace them.
A further nod to Tuscany and the surrounding landscape can be seen in the terracotta tones and textures on the outside of the warehouse. Here the ventilated facade is made up of one single type of rectangular terracotta tile, the surfaces of which have been washed and treated. The resulting interlinking arrangement achieves a clean, repeatable system in which each piece can be easily identified and replaced if necessary. The elements are anchored to a supporting structure composed of vertical bars fixed to the walls with brackets and wall plugs.
THE GREEN AREA AND THE PERIMETER FENCING
Pierattelli Architetture’s design for the Terna Suvereto substation blends in beautifully with the landscape and also takes inspiration from it. Along with Tuscan materials and colours, its greenery is also used as a design tool and to add a softening effect.
Native plants such as olive, cypress and pine trees (typical to the Tuscan countryside) are added to the pre-existing green area and along the road leading to the building’s entrance.
Greenery is also included in sections of the perimeter fencing in order to soften its visual impact. The original stone-filled gabion walls (2.5 m high and 0.50 m thick) have been modified so that the basket of the wall elevation is shifted back or made to stick out, thereby creating a beautiful interplay of voids and solids, light and shadow. On the internal side, zinc flower planters provide a bed for Virginia creepers, whose colours change with the seasons.
Lighting design is used to cleverly highlight the facades and their changing textures, and recessed LED floor lights cast strips of light upwards to elevate the sense of theatricality of the compositions.
The same lighting system has been chosen for the entrance and the green spaces. The driveway to the building is a particular focal point, while theatrical spotlights nestled amongst the olives illuminate groups of trees and subtly highlight the landscape.
Pierattelli Architetture (Arch. Andrea Pierattelli, Claudio Pierattelli, Massimo Pierattelli)
Arch. Antonio Saporito, Dr. Derna Cereser, Arch. Erica Bonaccorso, Arch. Ginevra Ozzola, Arch. Lorenzo Moscardi, Arch. Tommaso Greco
Terracotta elements: Cotto Manetti; Lighiting: Naboo spotlights by Ares (facade lighting), Chiara floor spotlights by Flos (outdoor lighting)
Renderings courtesy of Pierattelli Architetture
Architecture, interiors, industrial design: Pierattelli Architetture’s projects combine functionality, aesthetics and innovation in a multidisciplinary approach.
Founded in Florence in the ‘80s by architect Massimo Pieratelli, the studio today employs a team of some 20 professionals, led by Massimo Pierattelli together with his sons Andrea and Claudio Pierattelli.
With its strong corporate vocation, Pierattelli Architetture began by specialising in the design of corporate offices and banks but over the years the firm's activity expanded into the hospitality, residential and product design sectors.
Every piece of architecture, space or product is custom built in the name of extreme design flexibility, scrupulous contextual interpretation, the needs of the client and historical significance, to generate balanced, contemporary solutions.