The Punto Blu are centres were the Italian motorway company sells its products (e.g. automatic toll collection devices) and provides customer support services. Such places can easily become generic, featureless buildings, but Enza Evangelista was determined to make her design a far more welcoming, recognisable complex that people would easily remember. The revamp was complicated by the building being relatively small (60 m2 internal floor area) and in a visually cluttered area near the motorway exit (and all the structures linked to collecting tolls). As such, the architect employed a range of tools - visual identification, composition, environmental awareness - to strive for elegance. In practical terms, this equated to a rational approach deliberately infused with what is best described as elegant simplicity.
The parallelepiped volume houses both an open-plan sales and business area and a utilities section, where plastered walls divide the space into changing rooms and toilets. The defining aspect here is the double envelope, an inner layer of glazing and the outer one of micro perforated metal panels. Transparency and light top the bill, with large glazed areas that lend the interior a pleasing contemporary feel. The micro perforated panels, attached to uprights using exposed nuts and bolts, provide sun protection. The structure as a whole recalls a pavilion and, as such, makes it far more than a mere functional sales and customer service centre. It is a clearly recognisable complex and one that might well provide a model to be repeated in other Punto Blu.
The design foregrounds both details and the overall appearance. For example, it focuses on how the external envelope walks a line between functional and decorative, exploring the quality of the material, its use and potential transformation. This raises it above mere functionality, making it more than one of many components. It becomes the heart of the design as it exemplifies this decorative and functional plurality. It is also clearly not some sort of bland external sunscreen, but an architectural structure with different features. The use of blue recalls the brand (Punto Blu literally means Blue Point). The micro perforations form a pattern that adds a further aspect to the design. The use of different sized holes and differing intervals spaced in relation to the hole size creates a flowing vertical pattern that also alters the degree of transparency. The overall effect is that these panels resemble a light fabric almost wafting in the wind. Inside, the consequence is differing degrees of light and transparency, shaped by areas of light and shade visible on the floors and walls.
The panels are in two modules and are assembled vertically, forming an envelope with gaps that help to create a dynamic contrast between the right-angled frames and the flowing pattern of the micro perforations. This is, of course, at the very heart of the whole design.
The single-pitch roof based on a metallic structure supports the micro perforated panels. Photovoltaic panels help make the building increasingly energy self-sufficient.
Location: Fiumicino, Rome
Client: Autostrade per l’Italia
Gross Floor Area: 60 m2
Architects: Enza Evangelista
Design Team: Francesca D’Alatri, Benedetta Fantoni , Alessandra Perluigi
Contractor: Fito Flora, Isar
Structural: Giovanni Evangelista
Photography: © Filippo Finardi
Enza Evangelista (Civitavecchia, 1970) is a graduate of Rome’s La Sapienza University. She has completed master’s programs in urban design at the Oxford Brookes University and in ‘Architectural Restoration: Urban Building and Environmental Reclamation’ in Rome.
In 2000, she set up an architectural firm that focuses on urban regeneration and the redevelopment of heritage properties based around contemporary architectural designs, such as the refurbishment of the Magazzini Romani in the port of Civitavecchia, and the redevelopment of Coarso Centocelle. Recent projects include the development of a new concept for the Punto Blue sales and assistance centres operated by Autostrade per l’Italia SpA, Italy’s leading toll motorway operator, and the implementation of a sustainable building project (in progress), which involves the redevelopment of a brownfield site on the outskirts of the city of Civitavecchia and the use of sustainable technologies and energy saving.
In 2003, Evangelista founded an association of architects in Civitavecchia and opened Casa dell’Architettura. In 2009, she was appointed a director of the Ordine degli Architetti di Roma e Provincia, in charge of decentralization. She has curated a range of exhibitions and conferences, including ‘Amate l’Architettura’, which featured a hundred designs built in the Province of Rome and was organized by the Order under the sponsorship of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and DARC, Province of Rome and various municipalities for the promotion of contemporary architecture in the Province of Rome.
Her firm's designs have been featured in the national and international trade journals. The firm has also been selected to participate in several exhibitions, including the XII World Triennial of Architecture in Sofia (2009), Rome, Seville, and Shanghai, the exhibition ‘27/37 Rassegna internazionale giovane architetti italiani’ (2009), and the Triennale di Milano (2010) for the exhibition ‘Progetti di giovani architetti italiani’.