The Punto Blu are centres were the Italian motorway company sells its products (e.g. automatic toll collection devices) and provides customer support services. Such places can easily become generic, featureless buildings, but Enza Evangelista was determined to make her design a far more welcoming, recognisable complex that people would easily remember. The revamp was complicated by the building being relatively small (60 m2 internal floor area) and in a visually cluttered area near the motorway exit (and all the structures linked to collecting tolls). As such, the architect employed a range of tools - visual identification, composition, environmental awareness - to strive for elegance. In practical terms, this equated to a rational approach deliberately infused with what is best described as elegant simplicity.
The parallelepiped volume houses both an open-plan sales and business area and a utilities section, where plastered walls divide the space into changing rooms and toilets. The defining aspect here is the double envelope, an inner layer of glazing and the outer one of micro perforated metal panels. Transparency and light top the bill, with large glazed areas that lend the interior a pleasing contemporary feel. The micro perforated panels, attached to uprights using exposed nuts and bolts, provide sun protection. The structure as a whole recalls a pavilion and, as such, makes it far more than a mere functional sales and customer service centre. It is a clearly recognisable complex and one that might well provide a model to be repeated in other Punto Blu.
The design foregrounds both details and the overall appearance. For example, it focuses on how the external envelope walks a line between functional and decorative, exploring the quality of the material, its use and potential transformation. This raises it above mere functionality, making it more than one of many components. It becomes the heart of the design as it exemplifies this decorative and functional plurality. It is also clearly not some sort of bland external sunscreen, but an architectural structure with different features. The use of blue recalls the brand (Punto Blu literally means Blue Point). The micro perforations form a pattern that adds a further aspect to the design. The use of different sized holes and differing intervals spaced in relation to the hole size creates a flowing vertical pattern that also alters the degree of transparency. The overall effect is that these panels resemble a light fabric almost wafting in the wind. Inside, the consequence is differing degrees of light and transparency, shaped by areas of light and shade visible on the floors and walls.
The panels are in two modules and are assembled vertically, forming an envelope with gaps that help to create a dynamic contrast between the right-angled frames and the flowing pattern of the micro perforations. This is, of course, at the very heart of the whole design.
The single-pitch roof based on a metallic structure supports the micro perforated panels. Photovoltaic panels help make the building increasingly energy self-sufficient.