Technology, Innovation e Environment
One of the driving forces behind Italy’s industrial development after World War II, the petrochemical sector has left a very decisive footprint and many a scar on the landscape. A striking example is Marghera, the garden city built at the beginning of the last century on the mainland across from the islands of Venice, but marred by the other Marghera made up of oil refineries and enormous production plants that still today form the backdrop to Serenissima, the ancient lagoon city. Many similar industrial areas were built around the same period near a number of Italian ports. Further inland, refineries were put up in what was considered strategic places, ideal for logistics but stridently at odds with the agricultural landscapes molded over thousands of years. That relationship between these complex petrochemical facilities and their context has been fraught. But although eyesores, industrial plants were seen as inevitable, their construction dictated by the language of chemical engineering in which architecture had no say.
In 2007, the Maltese multinational Petronas bought the historic Fiat Lubrificanti plant, turning it into an advanced research unit for automotive engine oils. Petronas has always set great store by architecture - we all remember the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur designed by César Pelli in 2008. True to form therefore, the company did not want its research center in this corner of Piedmont in north-west Italy to be the typical industrial blot on the landscape but an architecture that would slip effortlessly into context.
The new Petronas Lubricants Research Center stands on plot that is part of a larger triangular shaped business and production district, bordered by a railway track and provincial road, which cuts into the orderly pattern of fields typical of the agricultural system in this area around Turin. The design conceived by studio 967arch, F&M Ingegneria in partnership with the British firm Broadway Malyan aimed to reconnect the new build with the layout of the adjacent fields.
Standing in a 80,000 sq. m remediated brownfield site where fuel tanks had once stood, the new construction combines an industrial structure and tertiary sector architecture, alternating the two to produce compact, sophisticated and highly functional forms that fit easily into their context. A single unit, it conceals a hybrid structure designed and built not only with its environmental impact during construction and building life cycle in mind, but also focused on functional features like energy consumption and user comfort. In keeping with the specific requirements of a client whose long-standing identity is as a company combining
cutting-edge technology with environmental safeguard, this building is genuinely eco-efficient.
With a surface area of 17,000 sq. m, the complex is made up of two interconnected buildings: one prevalently office building of 4,000 sq. m; the other mainly given over to industrial activities and housing the latest lubricant-oil research equipment. The laboratories occupy three stories, one of which below ground. A traditional pillar and beam structure in reinforced concrete, it has three full-height earthquake-resistant walls. Large long transparent dome-like structures in the roof run parallel to the concrete beams, pulling natural light into the building. The outer cladding of prefabricated elements is fastened to the main frame. The electric braking equipment used in the testing rooms of the production plant converts the mechanical energy generated during testing into electricity - approximately 1.6 MW - which is then used by the plant or released to the grid.
The three-story office building has nearly 100 workstations in a mix of open space and single offices. The large entrance also serves as a visitors’ waiting area. There is also an events and exhibition space, a nearly 180-seat auditorium, a board room, and two training classrooms. Although clearly an advanced technological site, 967arch and Broadway Malyan have created a well-balanced, modern and articulated complex. Great care has been taken with the façade modules, a regularly spaced series of solids and voids - in the form of glazed and solid walls - that lend character as well as let natural daylight into the building.
The outer partitions - in the same simple materials and color scheme throughout - reference the colors of the landscape but also the raw material used by the company.
Location: Santena, Turin, Italy - Client: Petronas Lubricants Italy - Completion Date: 2018 - Gross Floor Area: 17,000 m2
Architects: 967arch with Broadway Malyan
Construction Management: F&M Ingegneria
Artistic Direction: 967arch - Main Contractors: ATI Costruzioni Generali Gilardi, Malabaila & Arduino
Structural, Electrical and Mechanical: F&M Ingegneria - Fire Protection and Safety Coordinator: Gae Engineeering
Value Engineering and Project
Coordination: AI Group - Electrical and Special Facilities: Idest - Mechanical and Hydraulic Plant: Acta Studio
Resin Flooring and Concrete Façade Protection: Mapei
Aluminum Façade System: Schüco
Lighting: Lincor, Linaria, Craft, Perluce by Zumtobel
Furniture: Mia Ped, Primo 1000 Cabines, Primo Sliding Acoustic Doors (designer: Takiro Yuta) and DotBox (designer: Hangar Design Group) by Dieffebi
Stoneware Flooring and Wall Tiles: Cluny Argerot and Kerlite Materica by Cotto d’Este
Stoneware Flooring: Mashup by Mirage
Text by Luca Maria Francesco Fabris,Milan Polytechnic
Photography by Andrea Martiradonna
All images courtesy of 967arch