Porticoes marking a passage between public and private spaces
Working the urban space today means grappling with a situation that’s increasingly complex, unstable, and difficult to pin down, and one that’s often susceptible to processes that impinge on that space. Current economic, political, and social dynamics have triggered profound changes in our cities, to the point that it’s increasingly hard to draw a line between private and public spaces. And if it’s difficult to keep tabs on all these changes in our lives, how do we interpret them in architecture?
An example of how architects are doing just that is provided by DAP Studio with Social Housing Bragarina, a residential complex in La Spezia distinguished by the perfect continuity it creates between public and private spaces – a continuity that’s underscored by the use of porticos. The point where these buildings meet the ground merges with the public space, drawing pathways, equipped outdoor areas, shops, and the residences themselves together into a single whole.
Designed by Elena Sacco and Paolo Danelli from DAP Studio in collaboration with Progetec Srl, Social Housing Bragarina is a residential complex comprising 63 apartments occupying an area of 75,350 square feet (7000 m2), designed to be open to the life of the local neighborhood. The avoidance of fencing, the redesign of 43,000 square feet (4000 m2) of outdoor areas (including gardens, pedestrian paths, and equipped green areas), the transparency of the full-height windows in commercial premises, and the porticos at ground level have all contributed to making the complex a driving force to promote social interaction in Bragarina, a part of the city that’s close to the port and rail line, and distinguished by its extremely varied buildings.
The complex itself is a system of distinct volumes, linked by the design of the fenceless green and pedestrian areas, that presents an open face to the city, where one didn’t previously exist. The smaller of the two buildings is built along the road. The other, larger building has been designed around an open courtyard, and comprises three independent volumes connected by bridges and walkways.
Despite different designs, these two new residential buildings share a common unity in their architectural language, with the structural and infill elements of their exteriors underscored. The result is a mélange of changing colors, with acid yellow, dark gray, and red contrasting with the light gray of the walls. The articulation of the facades is underscored by the staggered arrangement of the apartments – which range in size from 700 to1450 square feet (65–135 m2) – to create balconies.
As mentioned, the point where the buildings meet the ground merges with public spaces, creating a sense of continuity between the pathways, equipped outdoor areas, commercial premises, and the residences, whose exterior porticoes, as well as the internal hallways, have polished sheet metal ceilings, which reflect the outdoors, enhancing the sense of connection with the public spaces. The idea of sharing is, in fact, at the basis of the entire project, right down to the round expanded sheet metal bicycle cages in the porticos, which are available for both residents and non-residents.
The transition between public and private spaces is gradual, and vice-versa. The interior color schemes, which give a rhythm to the spaces, paths, landings, and voids, recall the facades, while the entrance halls were designed as meeting and relaxation areas. There’s no shortage of shared spaces for residents, from rooms intended for meeting and socializing to the rooftop, where there are shared terraces at different levels, complete with utility rooms that act as a natural extension of the living space. Together, the porticos, balconies, shared terraces, and public courtyards create a system of open spaces with different degrees of sharing that enriches the life of this new community.
Project by: DAP studio, Progetec snc
Client: Dea capital real estate sgr, Fondo housing sociale liguria
Location: La Spezia, Italy
Building area: 7000 mq
Photography by: Atelier XYZ, courtesy of DAP Studio