With a project poised between tradition and innovation, Nuovostudio designs the Archdiocese of Ravenna's new archives and diocesan library. The Archdiocese of Ravenna has opened the extraordinary heritage of its archives and diocesan library to the city thanks to Nuovostudio’s elegant and balanced repurposing of the former Cinema Roma and the adjoining San Luigi Chapel. The raison d’être of the project was to make this collection of ancient documents accessible, which, dating from as long ago as the third century, testifies to the history of Ravenna. The project successfully strikes a balance between tradition and innovation, respect for its urban setting, and the permeability of its interior spaces, with a skilled use of new additions and changes that open up unexpected views. Creating a balanced relationship between the exterior and interior, the public face and the interior design, was addressed in numerous ways by Nuovostudio, a Ravenna-based firm whose work ranges from urban planning to architecture. Notably, the practice has designed over a hundred Giuseppe Zanotti boutiques in some of the most prestigious shopping precincts of the international fashion scene.
The regularity of the volume of the former cinema and the proximity of the monumental area of the cathedral and ancient bishop’s residence steered the architects towards a repurposing project that would ensure that every elevation would retain continuity with its setting, while also opening the buildings internally by demolishing existing structures. While the exterior walls were newly finished using a traditional thin layer of lime plaster which veils their texture, they also feature variations on the traditional design, revealing the transformations that have taken place between them. The original rhythm of the façade, whose brick texture can still be seen, has been changed by the addition of striking gray stone walls. Protruding slightly out from the line of the façade, these walls encapsulate the style of the new complex, while simultaneously concealing the sliding gates that close off the entrance at night.
Small changes to the façade made way for a striking modification that improves the usability of the internal rooms, with the three levels of the archives connected by the large, triple-height volume that was once the cinema. The ground floor is open to the public, while the two upper floors have been dedicated to office space. Replacing the doors with fixed glazing created a connection between the exterior and interior, enhancing the visual permeability of the archive spaces open to the public. A large skylight both illuminates and unites all the interiors. Access to the two upper floors, which is restricted and controlled, is via two sets of internal stairs in opposite parts of the building. The main stairway is located near the entrance hall and is used by the Ancient Collections section on the first floor. The second stairway serves the entire building and is also intended to serve future spaces to be created inside the San Luigi Chapel once renovations have been completed.
Within an open, fluid space, documents and books are stored in a large metal structure with towering double-height shelves, which appear as a single unit through the use of grilled walkways that allow daylight to filter down from above. The area resembles a building within a building, imposing its own architectural strength while highlighting the key element of the project: the collection itself.
Architect: NUOVOSTUDIO Architettura e Territorio, Ravenna.
Location: Ravenna, Italy
Photography by © NUOVOSTUDIO Architettura e Territorio, Ravenna.