AN URBAN LANTERN
An “urban lantern”. This was the concept that triggered the project. Completely transparent, IBM’s Italian headquarters is an urban landmark, especially at night when the interiors turn it into a huge glowing lantern - a symbol from afar, a lodestar orienting travelers in the dark. The lanterns are in fact three: three huge transparent light-filled objects that arouse the same awe in motorists travelling the Rome-Fiumicino highway that wayfarers felt on the ancient Via Portuense. Although made of three glass units, the new complex has only one entrance ramp leading to the base on which all three rest. The overall impression is of a single, ineffably lightweight dematerialized volume. On entering, the sensation is of a total new kind of space. Even the vistas onto the surrounding urban landscape are like nothing before seen.
The new headquarters meets Rome’s need for contemporary architecture, for even if steeped in the antiquities and centuries of tradition, Rome offers many opportunities to build architecture of our day.
The complex was designed throughout to allow full views onto the external landscape from within. To do this, traditional construction methods were used to put in place avant-garde design allowing excellent energy performance. As a result, IBM’s new headquarters stands as a contemporary reference model. The differently oriented interconnected elements allow the complex to achieve the best possible level of indoor comfort and energy savings with an optimal combination of natural daylighting, low-energy artificial illumination, insulated glass curtain walling, and ventilation and air conditioning systems.
The façades are the building’s most striking architectural feature. The elevations are shielded by a regular series of horizontal brise-soleil whose shape and size are the result of in-depth studies into the amount of direct sunlight falling on each façade. This wrap around the brise-soleil system of projecting blades not only affords vital sun shading but is also a key architectural feature. It is the most outward sign of how technology, architecture and aesthetics have been inextricably woven together throughout the complex. The metal blades stretching across the three glazed volumes create the impression of one single
light-filled unit. Yet although standing as a single complex, each individual unit has its own distinctive presence.
A key tenet right from the beginning was to allow sweeping views from all sides onto the surrounding landscape, eliminating as far as possible any visual barriers. This is especially the case with the large open glazed sections, which become huge eyes looking out on the world below. Nor, however, do the metal blades, a key design and function element, impede the views. The elevations themselves stand on a massive unrendered concrete plinth, heightening their lightweight quality and giving the impression that the building is hovering in the air. The continuation of the brise-soleil elements beyond the building crown further contributes to the sense of ineffable lightness.
The choice of interiors reflects the demand for an innovative workplace. Out is the former concept of the fixed work station. Here, environments are designed to blend fluidly and flexibly, allowing users virtual connectivity to their office from any point in the complex. Every area - from the open space sections and meeting rooms to the relaxation areas and canteen - is fully operator-enabled to meet all professional demands.
Completing the new complex is the archaeological park made up of a linear pedestrian walkway tracing the route of the ancient Via Portuense. In this way the new complex makes the history and memory of the place a tangible part of the present.
Designed in every detail to be a harmonious addition to its context, the new complex aims to create a sense of awe as an example of what the future can hold.