Architecture for urban redesign: Building A, Sub-district 8, La Spezia
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Architecture for urban redesign: Building A, Sub-district 8, La Spezia

MMAA Studio Manfroni & Associati

Architecture for urban redesign: Building A, Sub-district 8, La Spezia
By Francesco Pagliari -
In the 1980s, an old refinery to the north east of La Spezia was shut down. Since then, a complex series of land reclamation and town planning projects have sought to transform this sizeable piece of land into a district for small manufacturing plants, service businesses and shops. The sheer size of the place has resulted in "sub-districts" being marked out to allow specific transformation projects to be carried out by real estate entrepreneurs and construction companies. Sub-district 8 has offices that will form part of a new hub for the service industry. The plan is to have three parallel office blocks that form a harmonised area where the facades are similar and the materials are the same, but with touches of diversity, such as different colours. Building A has recently been completed and it can teach one quite a bit about the underlying design ideas, which are implemented carefully in this strategic area. It is clear that the focus has been on the old parking lots, which are non-permeable areas, on creating relations with the surrounding vegetation and background hills, and on creating structures that are both expressive and mark the skyline. The building places evident importance on quality, seeking a balance between the various compositional elements. It could be described as a whole formed by recognisable tesserae, with the subtle dynamics of relations and the mixing of different elements. The linear volume develops horizontally, with four above-ground floors. This effect is accentuated by the use of concrete stringcourses on the elevations to clearly define the different floors. The placement of windows and panels in these horizontal bands marks out a rhythm that becomes accentuated and quickens, giving the individual windows and panels an almost modular appearance that contrasts the solids with the voids. The correlations between these elements are dynamic, with the solids formed by Trespa panels, a composite, versatile material made of wood fibres and resins that create bright colours. For Building A, a deep, but elegant Bordeaux red was chosen. The narrow windows have folding external screens made of micro-perforated sheets on aluminium frames that block and filter the light. This option also ensures the colour contrasts are not completely changed when the shutters are closed as one merely gets a grey nuance instead of the lustre of the glass. The corners of the building are rounded, especially on the south-west elevation, giving the edifice a softer, flowing look that is highlighted by the glazing that gives the corners a sense of lightness. In contrast to this, the straight attic roof juts outs powerfully over the south-east side. The rounded angles recall the structure of the building, but since the underside of the attic roof is visibly reinforced concrete, it also creates a distinction from the main block of the building. The relations with open spaces are also carefully used on two levels. First, the basement floor opens onto the lower parking area, with steps connecting this level to the ground floor, where the entrance looks onto another parking lot in the large space between the other parallel buildings in sub-district 8. The ground floor, with full-height glazing, is also slightly recessed from the upper floors, creating a covered walkway around the building. This play on depths between the different storeys also means that on the ground floor the reinforced concrete columns are outside the glazing, visually creating the rhythm of the structure, while on the upper levels they are within the building. At the core of the whole structure is a full-height void for the staircase, which is a dominant element both because of its geometric lines and the materials used. The metallic parapets and the contrasting lines of the various flights of stairs are especially notable. This imposing structure develops in relation to the bare concrete walls that have a coarse, almost hollowed out, appearance. So, the materials are used to define how we perceive this central area, from which two short, longitudinal corridors lead off in opposing directions to allow access to the variously-sized units.

Francesco Pagliari

Location: La Spezia
Client: Subotto
Completion: 2012
Gross Floor Area: 6.750 m2
Cost of Construction: 8.431.000 Euro
Architects: MMAA - Studio Manfroni & Associati
Design Team: Mario Manfroni, Patrizia Burlando
Contractor: Costruire Impresa
Consultants Structural: Exa Engineering
Suppliers Façade: Trespa
Fire Doors: Ninz
Door and Window Frames: Domal
Lighting: Targetti, Beghelli

Photography: © Roberto Buratta

MMAA Studio Manfroni & Associati Studio Manfroni & Associati was set up in La Spezia in 1986 by Mario Manfroni. In 1993, Patrizia Burlando joined the firm, followed by Daniela Cappelletti in 1999 and Danilo Sergiampietri in 2001. The practice has a long background in the public and private sectors, and is involved in a range of different design areas, from single buildings to the planning of complex urban structures, maritime construction, infrastructure, and landscape design. Over the years, the firm’s work has come to focus on the redevelopment of areas for a range of different uses, always with the aim of creating high quality architecture within a budget. Major completed projects: - Railway embankment redevelopment, Levanto, La Spezia - Redevelopment of Parco Idroscalo, Milan - Marina in Gelendzgik, Black Sea, Russia - La Spezia trade fair complex - Riva shipyard, La Spezia - Offices and production facilities, former Oto Melara area, La Spezia - Traffic police barracks, Mondovì, Cuneo - Sub-district 1 Building A1, La Spezia

Mario Manfroni graduated in architecture in Florence in 1983. From 1983 to 1987, he worked at Ipostudio Architetti Associati, Florence, of which he was a founding member. In 1986, he established Studio Manfroni & Associati.

Patrizia Burlando graduated in 1990 from the Genoa Faculty of Architecture. In 1997, he specialized in Garden Architecture and Landscape Design at this institution, and in 2009 earned a PhD in landscape architecture. He is registered with the Italian Association of Landscape Architects (AIAPP). He has lectured at the Genoa Faculty of Architecture since 2004. Burlando currently also conducts extensive research in landscape architecture at Genoa’s Faculty of Architecture.

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