A new project that combines a monumental exterior with intimate interiors like city drawing rooms
In designing Bressanone’s new school of music, Treviso-based practice Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli set out to tame an urban space with architecture that creates a community space open to all. The architecture in question has been nicknamed Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, a reference to the period of history when the wonders contained in private collections, previously only accessible to a select few, were revealed to the public. And the architects who’ve worked on this cabinet of musical wonders have coordinated everything, from design and construction to furniture and signage.
Its three aboveground floors modulate and communicate intimately with the city, simultaneously providing a space for interaction and an urban thoroughfare.
A new urban gateway, the center is located in the north, not far from the heart of the old city, a nerve center of the Priel area with its many community facilities, including the Acquarena swimming pool and the Vertikale climbing wall.
The project is a part of a larger plan that includes the construction of a two-level underground public car park to the north with a rooftop garden intended to act as a thoroughfare to the city. To the south, between the Brenner highway (an ancient road between Austria and Italy), the municipal swimming pool, and the historic city center, there will be a square with another level of underground public parking.
The school therefore sits at the hub of a network of underground vehicular traffic and pedestrian walkways. It will also form the north side of a future square that will be bordered to the east by the climbing wall and the swimming pool. The school will provide spatial alignment for the completed development while also – and with great flexibility – resolve the different elevations of the site.
In this way, every area will be interconnected and easily accessible, making the square with its parking lot, the school buildings, and the spaces of the Banda Musica and Alpenverein associations (housed in a compact building north of the climbing wall), one continuous space over several levels.
From a morphological perspective, the project has reinterpreted archetypes from the old section of the city and its layout. Intended to blend into its urban setting, the project is distinguished by its solid, recognizable volume, within which an enclosed open space has been created.
Located on the western side of the development, the school occupies three aboveground floors and a portion of basement. To mitigate the building’s impact on the skyline, the top floor is set back from the line of the facades, creating the visual impression that it’s smaller than it actually is. Its walls are conceived like the facing walls, with finishes that change depending on their setting, so as to resonate with the surrounding buildings.
The enclosure, which, together with the school building, surrounds the large public courtyard to the east, is designed as a two-story volume housing vertical transportation and some public services. This overcomes differences in elevation on the site, ensuring visual continuity between the square and the future Parco Priel, while also avoiding obstructing the views towards the mountains to the north and south.
The open space has been designed to fulfil the important job of distributing flows of people towards the city, which it achieves with its marked horizontal and vertical permeability, with access points at ground level and 12 feet (3.75m). Overlooking the new music school, the Banda Musicale and Alpenverein associations, the climbing wall, and the square, the courtyard will also serve as a future parking lot, allowing direct access to Piazza Priel and, in general, the city.
There are 29 music rooms on the first three floors. Beginning at the entrance foyer, stairs and vertical transportation, designed as a continuous and “choreographic” system, connect all the levels of the school.
The rooms and circulation areas, including the large central corridor from which the classrooms branch off and which is illuminated by a large skylight that allows natural light to pass through the entire volume thanks to a system of double height sections, were designed as places where students can socialize, pass the time, study, and meet.
Public and always accessible, the courtyard includes a series of services, including kiosks, storage spaces, and vertical transportation.
The monumentalism of the facades contrasts with the strong emphasis on familiarity of the interiors, drawing upon local collective memory associated with the city’s historical places. The large entrance foyer and circulation areas are like welcoming drawing rooms for the city. Within them, people can take stock, thanks to the use of openings and beautiful light gray plasterwork. Inviting padded armchairs are strategically placed near the service and filtering areas, which are all fully wallpapered in neutral colors, a reference to the tapestries in Palazzo Vescovile in Bressanone. The vertical transportation and furnishings integrated into the building feature dark-stained oak, recalling the wooden furniture found in the buildings in the historic center of the city. Abundant natural light – angled or from overhead, depending on the location – filters through sound-absorbing drapes in pastel shades.
Entirely built in exposed reinforced concrete and with no cladding, the building displays a surprising correspondence between structure and architecture. With the addition of red porphyry aggregates and pigments (red at 3% and black at 2.5%) in the concrete, the complex has a color and materiality that blends well with local traditions and materials.
Aimed at better reflecting natural light, the only treatment given to the surfaces is bush-hammering. This has been done throughout, except for around doors and windows and in the courtyard, with the work done by hand using a motif taken from local tradition. This very simple textured finish reinterprets the decorative work from around the city in a contemporary vein.
Location: Bressanone, Italy
Building area: 5.312 m2
Project by: Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli
Consultants: Giada Cattelan, Alessio Oliviero, Alessandro Zotta
Photography by Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli