Urban regeneration through transformation
Located at a fairly short distance from some of Rome’s world famous monuments between Via Casilina and Via Tuscolana in the densely inhabited neighborhood just beyond the Aurelian Wall, the project for the headquarters of pharmaceutical company Angelini was a major challenge from the start. Called in 2005, the international competition entered by firms like Grimshaw Architects, Wiel Arets Architects, Mario Bellini Architects, Camerana & Partners, Studio Seste, and Ian+ was won by the Rome-based firm Studio Transit -
comprising architects Gianni Ascarelli, Manuela De Micheli, Alessandro Pistolesi and Sergio Vinci - together with architect Enzo Pinci. The strategic importance of the overall goal - to develop quality architecture not only to promote a company’s corporate identity but also as a means of triggering urban regeneration - required that client, local authorities, and all other players operate in harmony. It was agreed that the first step to ensure quality was to call an international competition, developed jointly by Angelini and the city authorities.
Studio Transit’s articulated project was a strategic approach to the dual requirements of the brief: renovation and extension of a former industrial building within a strict regulatory framework with an eye to promoting broader urban renewal. The project is not just a simple restyling exercise. The amount of flexible usable volume has been increased, innovative technologies introduced and the former closed city block extended and opened up to the area around it. Demolition and reconstruction posed no few practical worksite problems, not only in terms of creating as little disruption as possible to local inhabitants, given the densely populated urban context, but also because the company had to remain operational for most of the period. For this reason, work was executed in two stages.
The original L-shaped building dating back to 1946 occupied a whole city block, its façades typical of industrial buildings of the time with small, regularly spaced windows, giving the impression of an imposing mass closed to the outside. Studio Transit’s project overturned this scheme, creating four blocks separated by a series of amenable green spaces that provided permeability, light and sightlines onto the inside of the complex and what can be called its central court. The curtain walls of the street-side façades are in solid stoneware. These contrast with the extensive glazed façades of the more internal blocks and the extension. This new volume makes up the third side of the building, creating a new U-shaped plan. An asymmetrical system of white aluminum sun-shading slats protects the new volume, continuing under the façade to line the soffit of the cantilevered floor slabs supported by thick columns. In contrast, the other glazed walls use selective low-emissivity glass rather than brise-soleil. The four new blocks are connected by a glazed top-story “bridge” structure housing the top management offices.
The area, or court, enclosed to by the new U-shaped plan is now a flexible multifuctional area that can also host public events. Connected to the new extension, it winds around itself like a ribbon, its arresting dynamic geometry creating a series of interestingly angled volumes. It includes collective use and exhibition areas, the spacious atrium as well as meeting, training and wellness areas. Accommodating a range of different size gatherings, the auditorium symbolizes the in-built flexibility of the complex. Interiors and exteriors echo each other; the white resin flooring on the interiors of the central volume is echoed by the white scratch-pattern stoneware “ribbon” running along the outside walls, and the timber slats lining the interiors are echoed by external timber-clad sections. Together with the planted walls that clad pillars and exterior structural partitions, they make an elegant contrast to the luminous white walls. Natural greenery also accompanies the flow of corridors and interior spaces, becoming an integral part of the architecture. Likewise, reflective pools and flowing water accompany the central “ribbon” volume.
The renovated and enlarged headquarters have been built to
anti-seismic standards with the insulation of the structure from the soil in which it rests.
This, together with the energy saving systems has earned it LEED Gold certification, an important achievement not just for the individual building but also for its implications for the urban regeneration plan of which it is a part.
Location: Rome, Italy - Gross Floor Area: 15,000 m2 - Architect: Studio Transit - Competition Project:
Studio Transit with Enzo Pinci- Project Architects: Gianni Ascarelli, Alessandro Pistolesi, Sergio Vinci, Manuela De Micheli
Art Director: Manuela De Micheli - Project Leader: Roberta Bianchi - Construction Project Manager: Studio Latini
Structural: So.In.Ci., Innovae, Ser.In - Services Engineering: Innovae, Lombardini 22 - Green Walls: Verde Profilo
Filter-fabric Roller Blinds: Omnitex
Text by Francesco Pagliari
All images courtesy of Studio Transit