Combining a variety of architectural themes in one building, the project by DAP (Elena Sacco and Paolo Danelli) and Paola Giaconia for the cultural centre in Ranica reflects the idea that architecture not only introduces spatial relationships, but also constitutes the recognisability of places, thereby bringing into play the civic value of buildings. This building combines public functions that have a strong presence and resonance, from the public library to the preschool, from the auditorium to the spaces for teaching and assessing the performing arts, such as theatre and dance, all forms of personal – as well as design – growth and cohesion that reflect community expectations and values. Clearly delineated, identifiable spaces exist side by side with floating, flexible spaces. In this way, the cultural centre is effectively versatile, while providing further potentialities through the integration between the structure of the architecture and its planned system of functional spaces, which lie along potential internal pathways – both cognitive and spatial. Within the building, functions work together, special directions are created, and unusual relationships are formed, which the simultaneous presence of different functions tends to enhance, achieving both the cultural and architectural objectives. The brief for the cultural centre outlines orientations, establishes an urban role for the complex, and addresses the needs and expectations expressed by the local community. A foundational concept of interrelated spaces is brought into play though a conceptual and physically perceptible exchange between the complex as a whole and its component parts, between how it is perceived from the outside and its interior configuration, which can only be appreciated and experienced in person. The geometry and materials of the building create a range of experiences. Different elevations offer different visual impressions, based around the rectangular plan, with a partial overlapping between the ground and first floors, between full and empty volumes, and between different degrees of transparency. The upper floor elevations are finished with bands of tinted polycarbonate in modulated shades, an element that underscores its importance while creating a blur between opacity and translucence within its urban and natural (namely the sky and the pre-Alps) landscapes. The upper elevations are obvious symbols, discernable from the entrance to the access roads and side views of the building. The building seems a natural part of the town, encompassing a connecting route of spaces, and creating a material and perceptive entity. On the ground floor, the appearance is different. The floor is smaller than the projecting upper level, this creating covered and open pathways at ground level around the perimeter of the building. The walls alternate between towering glazed areas and rendered sections. Obvious features are the stairs, a long ramp that runs along the western elevation, and an external staircase alongside the glazed wall that gives light and visibility to the library entrance – an important and clearly defined double-height space and a key element of the entire building. Empty and full, the segmented volumes of the exterior vertical connections appear like the lines in a force diagram through the double and overlapping composition of the facade between the two levels. The point where the interior and exterior of the cultural centre meet is a space of transition, focusing attention on the southern side of the building and reflecting the design intent. The urban space is constructed and governed by the architecture. The perimeter moves outwards, encompassing further interaction between the parts: the polycarbonate band marks out the upper edge, open and overlooking a paved public square, which is slightly raised relative to the road surface. The square itself is a place of transition that functions as a visual preface to the glazed entrance to the library, while also being a place that is autonomous and a centre for social interaction. The interplay of the external elevations between linearity and the multiplication of signs and volume, form between rigor and eventualities, is transposed to the interior, where the cultural and functional functions create subdivisions and accents. This is best demonstrated in the library: It’s the dominant space of the double-height entrance hall. It’s the luminosity created by light filtering through the glass walls that surround the central courtyard of the southern block. It’s the continuity of the pathways on the two levels. It’s the strong presence of the stairway in the double-height space, a concrete and dark volume outlined against the courtyard glazing.
Location: Ranica, Bergamo
Client: Commune of Ranica
Gross Floor Area: 2.240 m2
Construction Cost: 4.104.000 Euros
Architects: DAP Studio and Paola Giaconia
Design Team: Pasquale Gallo, Alessia Mosci, Laura Tagliabue, Paolo Vimercati
Works Management: Silvano Armellini, Bruno Sciola
Main Contractor: Edil Emmeti
Structural: Davide Arrigoni
Doors and Windows: CSM Polycarbonate
Termoplastici Lighting: Hi Lite
Library Furnishings: Biblio
Piping and Conduit: Canalsistem
Plastering and Finishes: Intevo
Photo by Alessandra Bello
DAP is based in Milan. It was established in 1992 by Elena Sacco and Paolo Danelli, both of whom graduated from the Milan Polytechnic Faculty of Architecture. The studio has both public and private clients, and is involved in projects of various sizes. A key theme over recent years has been the design of public spaces for cultural activities, which DAP Studio combines with the development of cultural projects and systems. Using the synergy between these areas, the studio focuses on the programmatic aspects of projects, namely, feasibility studies and preliminary drafts of architectural designs. DAP Studio participated in the Italian Pavilion at the 12th Venice Architecture Biennial in 2010 and was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2011. In 2009 it received an honourable mention in the Medaglia d’Oro all’Architettura Italiana Award.
arch. Paola Giaconia
Paola Giaconia graduated in Architecture from Milan Polytechnic. After completing a masters degree in Architecture under a Fulbright scholarship at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles, she joined the Morphosis architecture studio. She combines her studio’s work with teaching and lectures in architectural design at the Florence campuses of California State and Kent State Universities. She chairs conferences, and participates in congresses and seminars on trends in contemporary architecture at cultural institutions and universities. Together with Marco Brizzi, she wrote the catalogues for the latest editions of Florence’s Beyond Media festival, as a part of which she has curated the exhibition ‘Spot on Schools’ since 2003. In 2006 she wrote the monograph on the architect Eric Owen Moss, "Eric Owen Moss. L’incertezza del fare" (published by Skira).