Ex Mattatoio al Testaccio, Roma, riconversione del padiglione 2b in aule universitarie - Insula architettura e ingegneria
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Former Mattatoio al Testaccio slaughterhouse in Rome, converting Hall 2b into rooms for the university

Insula architettura e ingegneria

Edited By Francesco Pagliari - 1 October 2013
Converting Rome's old Mattatoio al Testaccio slaughterhouse brought to light strategic questions about resource use and architectural design. The underlying structure has a clear late 19th-century imprint, with a series of regular-shaped industrial buildings, a combination of stone and ironwork, a gable roof, and spaces and buildings laid out rationally in accordance with innovative - at the time - ideas about hygiene. Design and cultural resources were focused on remodelling spaces and the halls for public use, in the broad sense. The design resources were allocated to the restoration, revamping and conversion work needed to attain high quality solutions. The complex is large, but divided into various halls. At present, the regeneration project could be labelled as incomplete or fragmented, with various entities bringing a sea of differing requirements, such as, the lecture halls for the university and the spaces for a museum on contemporary culture. Consequently, the ability to use such a diverse - and still incompletely restored - complex tends to result in the differing functions being dotted around, despite the efforts to oversee the "planning" of the area.
Since the University of Rome III will use part of the converted complex, across multiple halls, for the Architecture Faculty, it played a key role in identifying areas for lecture halls, study and seminar rooms, and places for students to gather socially. The most recently converted of these - Hall 2b - is used for all manner of didactic activities, with a number of modular rooms where the size can be adjusted to meet any of the requirements just mentioned. In such a context, the vast interior spaces are seen in terms of potential use, with the individual designs providing a more concrete solution. It was decided to maintain many of the industrial features - the exposed roof frame with cast iron beams and columns, the aerial tracks of the sorting system, the gable roof and the exposed trusses - especially as all of the raised parts, in combination with the long skylight, help bring a sense of unity and character. The innovative conversion work saw the addition of 6 sliding walls that can be used to make a whole range of differently sized rooms, from one giant hall to 7 far smaller spaces. The sliding walls are actually closable opaque panels that, when in the "storage" position, face a fixed, glazed section. When they are rolled out, the fixed glazed sections along the wall flanked by desks ensure one still gets a sense of continuity and of the length of the hall. The entrances are on the west facade, with every possible division of space enjoying direct access. A relatively central main entrance leads into the only area that can also be reached directly from the eastern side. The bathrooms are located at the far southern side.
Since this project encompasses both restoration and conversion, it is a complex design with different parts. For example, care is taken to exalt the brickwork and tuff on the exterior, while inside, a series of technological and functional additions were needed to allow the flexible division of space to keep in step with changing needs. Similarly, the roof was completely redone, but the coupled roof trusses were maintained as a further historical element.
Francesco Pagliari