The former General Ettore Perrone Barrack in Novara is an important structure and site in the city, situated in a prominent position between the old town and the defensive circle of bastions. It features typical military architectural characteristics, specifically specialist terrace-style buildings, in an original layout where the main buildings were arranged in a C-shaped plan around a large open training ground. Built in the mid-1800s in the refined style of military architecture of the day, Caserma Perrone’s history shares much in common with many other military complexes in Italy: internal extensions were made within the enclosed military area; damage occurred during the Second World War (after an explosion, the original main complex of three C-shaped buildings was reduced to an L-shaped design). After World War II, the complex was used as a reception and transit center for former Italian military detainees in German concentration camps, prison survivors on their return to Italy, displaced persons, and refugees from Istria and Dalmatia; it was then abandoned, until the end of the twentieth century when it was chosen as a site for a new university. Work was initiated to restore and renew the two L-shaped buildings, including basic installations and equipment. Subsequently, in 2006, an international competition was held to complete the renewal process and finish the university project. That competition was won by a temporary joint venture of ODB Architects and Lamberto Rossi Associati. A number of different design and implementation phases have followed since then. The project for the Piemonte Orientale University campus in Novara works on multiple levels: on one hand, the idea of recovering and reusing the buildings at the former Perrone Barracks required a general rethink of the concept and role a university facility plays on a historical urban site; at the same time, the architectural and compositional focus was squarely on the characteristics associated with inserting contemporary architectural elements into a consolidated structure of specialist buildings, for which degrees of restoration and functional recovery varied. As a whole, the Campus project pursues an approach based on opening up an “enclosed area” – formally established by the military encampment – to gradual and mutual forms of exchange with the city, following a formula that envisages an interplay and interconnection between external areas frequented by the public and more reserved internal areas for specific use by the University and its students. The architectural design of the buildings destined to house university-specific functions (lecture halls, canteen, auditorium and library) references features from the existing architecture, creating significant value through a functional conversion that meets modern-day requirements. Effective energy-saving (through the use of high-performance materials and advanced construction and installation technologies) was achieved, while respecting the architectural characterization objectives of expressivity, logic and functionality. A prime example of this is the most recently-finished construction that, in many ways, embodies a virtual “restoration” of the 18th-century C-shaped plan. Overlapping and contiguous elements come together in this building: an entirely metallic structure was inserted into portions of the perimeter wall in such a manner as to be totally autonomous (suggesting an application that coheres with the general idea of a theory of “reversibility” in architectural work within a historical context; work that may be considered similar to elements of evidently historical value). An aspiration to architectural elegance is a characterizing element of buildings whose functional nature is evident in the ways that their internal spaces are configured (a free-standing span cross-section extending 18 meters, along a longitudinal measurement of 120 linear meters). This arrangement caters to the need for an effective way of dividing the teaching areas, study areas and meeting areas, featuring pathways that function in multi-faceted and differentiated ways. Incoming natural light offers a solution both for raising the standards of the interior space – via a twin line of rooftop skylights that enable light to flow into the upper level central access corridor – while rendering the lighting system more effective.
Client: The Amedeo Avogadro University of Eastern Piedmont
Gross Floor Area: 22,700 m2
Cost of Construction: 19,200,000 Euros
Architects: Lamberto Rossi Associati (Supervision) - Lamberto Rossi, Marco Tarabella; OTTAVIO DI BLASI & Partners - Ottavio Di Blasi, Daniela Tortello, Paolo Simonetti; Roberto Cagnoni; Fabiano Trevisan; Stefano Grioni, Alberto Tricarico (Structural and Safety); Manens-Tifs (Services Engineering)
Project Architect of the Teaching and Cafeteria Buildings: OTTAVIO DI BLASI & Partners
Construction Management: Paolo Simonetti
Restoration of Existing Buildings: Lamberto Rossi Associati
Administration: Claudio Tambornino (University of Eastern Piedmont)
Main Contractors: Celi Energia, Cellini GTC
Fire Protection: Studio Delta
Acoustics: Alessandro Placci
Windows and Doors Frames: Vikappa, CO.ME.A, Aluk
Glass: Art-Glass, Saint-Gobain
Steel Structure: La Nuova MG, Carpenteria Piciaccia , ArcelorMittal
GRC System: Gruppo Centro Nord
Sun-shading: Merlo, Linea F3, Gridiron
Roofing: Isolpack, Iscom
False Ceilings: Saint-Gobain, Decogips, Gyproc, Profilsystem
Photography: © BeppeRaso
OTTAVIO DI BLASI Architect
Ottavio di Blasi was born in Milan, Italy, in 1954. He graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1980. From 1979 to 1990, he was one of Renzo Piano’s closest collaborators, with project responsibility over many projects. Di Blasi opened his own practice in Milan in 1990, in association with Paolo Simonetti and Daniela Tortello. Since 2010, the studio has traded as OTTAVIO DI BLASI & Partners. He is a Contract Professor at the “Politecnico di Milano - Faculty of Architecture” and has lectured at many universities in Italy and abroad. A hallmark feature of his work is a synthesis between a technologically-advanced approach to construction and a humanistic vision that puts man and the cultural values associated with the site at the center of the project.
Lamberto Rossi Associati
Lamberto Rossi was born in Lucca, Italy, in 1954. He graduated in Architecture in Rome, Italy, in 1977, studying with Ludovico Quaroni; Marco Tarabella was born in Latina, Italy, in 1968. He graduated in Architecture in Rome, Italy, in 1996, studying with Walter Bordini. In 2008, Lamberto Rossi and Marco Tarabella established Lamberto Rossi Associati/LR-A in Milan. LR-A’s research focuses on issues associated with urban renewal and the restoration of abandoned monumental complexes. The practice adopts a participative approach based on an original working methodology that revolves around the concept of an “Urban Laboratory”.