A crosspollination of design, art, and fashion in an industrial complex originally designed by Nervi
It’s hard not to think of Warhol’s iconic Factory on East 47th Street, Manhattan, when you see the images of Manifattura Tabacchi in Florence. This is a true hub of creativity that takes its cue from that magical studio created by the American artist as a meeting place for emerging and established artists in the worlds of design, fashion, art, and culture.
Manifattura Tabacchi is a new home for the international community of professionals and creatives who want to live and work in Florence. It’s also one of Italy’s biggest urban regeneration projects, with the iconic industrial complex, designed by Pier Luigi Nervi, expertly reinvented with a multilayered redevelopment plan that involves a total of sixteen buildings with floorspace of some 1.18 million square feet (110,000 m2). The project was the work of Luca and Marco Baldini’s Florence-based practice, Q-bic, which worked alongside landscape architect Antonio Perazzi. Together they expanded on the masterplan originally conceived by Concrete Architectural Associates to create a new hub with a high functional mix. The project avoids demolitions, preferring instead to make the existing buildings more efficient and sustainable through the use of geothermal energy and active water resource management.
Since 2018, the 135,302 square feet (12,570 m2) of interior and exterior space of Manifattura Tabacchi has been a hive of activity. A renovated temporary space of around 10,800 square feet (1000 m2) at ground level in Building 7 comprises five studio classrooms for teaching graphic design, photography, set design, and painting. The classrooms can accommodate over a hundred students and are used by Florence’s Academy of Fine Arts for part of its teaching programs. In December 2019, DogHead Animation, a 2D animation startup at the forefront of computer graphics, moved into Building 8. They were joined by Istituto dei Mestieri d’Eccellenza LVMH (IME), which offers professional training aimed at sharing the LVMH group’s savoir-faire in both artisanry and sales with young people.
Building 6 runs along the north-south axis of the complex. This large construction, once occupied by the Italian authority for state monopolies, completes the second construction site. Distinguished by its symmetrical façade and large clock, this building, which once separated the clock plaza from a production area, now houses the third campus of Polimoda, the famous Florentine tertiary education institution dedicated to fashion. It comprises computer labs, classrooms, an auditorium, and workshops for teaching tailoring, knitting, and photography.
Comprising 10,760 square feet (1000 m2) of workshops and accommodating eight hundred students, the new facility is equipped with state-of-the-art industrial machinery so that students can learn in an environment that’s as similar as possible to the reality of the industry. Five of the workshops – four for tailoring and one for knitwear – are equipped with a hundred overlockers, with an industrial ironing table in each as well as knitting looms and mannequins. A store sells students all the materials and tools of the trade.
Manifattura Tabacchi is a functional, versatile complex and an efficient, sustainable structure. This was partly achieved by the use of Secco Sistemi products, which were chosen by the architects as a good fit for the site’s unique architecture. A great deal of attention went into restoring door and window openings. With these elements playing such a key role in defining the exterior of the building, their replacement required special care in terms of materials and designs.
The choice of painted galvanized steel was indicated both by the aesthetics of the original building, and because of its excellent performance in terms of insulation and durability. The design of the windows and doors also provides good transparency and suitable natural lighting for the activities that go on inside the building.
Secco Sistemi’s OS2 75 system was used for the exteriors and OS2 40 for the interiors. Both part of the thermally broken OS2 range, these fittings offer architects the possibility of multiple combinations for achieving maximum transparency and pure lines. While maintaining its performance over time, this integrated system allowed the architects to “get back to designing windows” and capture the modernist language of the complex.
These products offer aesthetics and performance in every respect. The same is true of EBE AF, the EI30-60 fire-resistant, thermally broken window in quality metals from the EBE series, perfect for creating fixed doors and windows with the same finishes as the profiles used for the windows.
Building 6 is particularly interesting in that it reflects the international rationalist language of factory design from the first thirty years of the twentieth century, with its regular plan and compact volumes. It has three aboveground floors and a basement level. Divided in three, the principal façade forms the main entrance to the workshop area. Its central section juts outwards from the wings on either side and incorporates a large entrance at ground level with a concrete canopy roof. On the upper floors, the middle wall of this section has three windows arranged vertically, surmounted by a round clock. The volumes on either side have glass blocks, revealing the stairwells inside.
Masterplan: Concrete Architectural Associates
Project by: Concrete, Studio Mumbai, SANAA, Q-bic, Piuarch, Antonio Perazzi, Studio Urquiola, Quincoces-Dragò & P., Aut Aut Architettura
Project Management: MTDM – Manifattura Tabacchi Development Management
General Contractor: Setten Genesio SpA
Promoter: Gruppo Cassa Depositi e Prestiti e da PW Real Estate Fund III LP
Area: 110.000 mq
Location: Florence, Italy
Suppliers, consultants and solutions: MIC mobility in chain (mobilità); Studio Geotecnico Italiano SGI, Geol. Antonio Maria Baldi, Studio Mancini Marco, Enser, Idrogeo (geologia e geotecnica); Prof. Giuseppe Carbonara, Arch. Licia Caspani (restauro); B.Cube (gestione gare e progettazione esecutiva), Iris, Ramboll, E-Next (sostenibilità e ambiente); Progenia (real estate agent); Lama (usi temporanei); Greenwich, Tekne, Habitec (consulenza ambientale); Libra, Romeo Safety Italia, Sicurcantieri, Florentecnica (sicurezza); Jensen Hughes, Sicurtecno, AFC (prevenzione antincendio); GAD, Proiter, Studio Gare, Ing. Andrea Sorbi, Studio Chiti, DEDA LEGNO - Prof. Follesa, Studio Ing. Magnifico (consulenza ingegneristica); Aei progetti, Studio Ingegneri Mannelli Associati, Studio Orazio Miroddi, Planning, Sintecna, Passaleva associati (ingegneria e strutture); C14 (illuminazione); WIP, Protecno, Intec, ESA Engineering Srl, Spring, Alderighi Impianti (impianti climatizzazione e elettrici); Secco (serramenti); UNIFI – Università di Firenze dipartimento scienze della terra.
Phography by Andrea Martiradonna, Niccolò Vonci, Alessandro Fibbi; courtesy of Manifattura Tabacchi