Situated on the very edges of our urban centers and usually surrounded by agricultural land, many factories and businesses - often housed in technically efficient, well-planned but architecturally non-descript buildings - have great potential in terms of experimental design projects.
Renovating, extending and updating the technology of an existing production plant is a major challenge for both architects and their clients. As well as a means for a company to project a positive contemporary image, investing in quality architecture often also reflects a keen focus on ensuring quality working environments, as well as concern that the plant or factory fit into its urban or rural context.
The many varied industries and businesses located on the southern outskirts of the town of Oderzo in Italy’s north-east Veneto region are part of a consolidated manufacturing district that sits comfortably amid extensive agricultural land. One of the companies, the multinational Nice, leader in the Home Automation, Home Security and Smart Home sectors, has for several years now been engaged in plant renewal with the help of architect Carlo Dal Bo. The result has been the company headquarters, the Gate Focus Factory (its manufacturing unit), and the TheNicePlace, the social, training and meeting hub involving all company stakeholders. Further extension of the manufacturing plant is planned for the future with a new Research & Development Center.
The architect and project were chosen by competition. Organized in partnership with The Plan, the Space for Nice Ideas contest was conducted in two stages: a first, anonymous and open call for tenders from Italian designers under 40, and a second round reserved for the winner of the first phase in competition with three world-famous practices invited by Nice.
The jury, chaired by President and Founder of Nice, Lauro Buoro, was made up of Roberto Griffa, Lorenzo Galberti, and Andrea Vettor from Nice, and external members Maurizio Milan, engineer, architect Carlo Dal Bo, and editor and founder of The Plan, Nicola Leonardi.
Seven architecture practices submitted in the first phase. The brief was to develop a building in keeping with the principles underpinning the company’s development over the years as reflected in its Nice headquarters, i.e. as a dynamic forward-looking business with its eyes on the future. The brief also demanded highly efficient yet innovative architecture also in terms of the materials used, a building that would reflect the company’s flexible, agile and open-minded approach to product development. The open space working areas had to be flanked by community spaces encouraging interaction and collaboration that would in turn stimulate out-of-the-box thinking and imagination.
The first phase of the competition was won by Andrea Rigo and Carlotta Rigo with their Green Urban Canyon project, chosen by the jury for “the originality of a solution that provides a harmonious and dynamic way of blending architecture and nature; for a distribution circuit providing flexible, easy-to-access internal and external spaces; and for the well balanced comfortable way the new building fits into context”.
A special mention was given to the Nice Pinwheel project by Federica Monti and Paola Zatti, for “its clear elegant composition and rational spatial distribution, and for the pure linear design of a white, transparent and harmonious architecture”.
The Green Urban Canyon project then went on to the second phase to vie with the proposals submitted by Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia: Space for Nice Ideas; Park Associati: Nice Moving; and Alvisi Kirimoto + Partners: TheNiceBreath - A Breathing Organism, this latter adjudicated winner. It was decided that the winning project would be disclosed gradually as work proceeded.
In making its choice, the jury praised the project’s purity of design and compatibility with context as well as the technical solutions proposed, noting how: “the design stands out for its simple, sophisticated elegance and purity of line in which the white architecture is the strong, iconic yet restrained feature. The project fits perfectly into the site, setting up a harmonious dialogue with its industrial and natural surroundings, in particular with the pre-existing Nice headquarters. Preserving a significant portion of the existing structure in no way limits the new design project. Equally noteworthy are the technological solutions and
avant-garde innovation proposed, such as the in-built flexibility of the spaces that will allow the project to evolve over time”.