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Ipostilo delle Polveri

Cherubino Gambardella

A well known figure on the Neapolitan scene, Gambardella casts into question the few remaining certainties most cling to. His irony is grounded in a profound knowledge of the history of architecture - a rare quality in young architects today. His sophisticated 2003 restoration of the Cubo d’Oro erected for the Naples “Overseas Exhibition” of 1939, and a paradoxical depot for inert materials built in the same year in the southern Italian province of Benevento, reveal an ability to step outside well honed stylistic achievements in a wide range of domestic interior architecture settings. The Ipostilo delle Polveri, Gambardella’s enlargement of an anonymous prefabricated office building on the outskirts of Benevento is proof that this new approach fits happily into the Italian scene. Indeed, Italy needs more client/architect ententes of this kind. The brief was to transform a drab, characterless edifice into an urban landmark along the straight Via Appia, a thoroughfare that over recent decades has come to rival Las Vegas for kitsch. Gambardella’s hypostyle with 88 concrete columns is a sort of labyrinthine atrium. The forest of different diameter columns is reminiscent of the ancient Roman Piscina Mirabilis not far away. Serving no functional requirement, its primordial appearance draws the eye like an advertising hoarding. It is unashamedly sheer entertainment and experience. The hypostyle is concealed from immediate view from the road by a perforated concrete frontage that at night becomes a diorama, giving glimpses of the fairy-story world behind the screen. The 12-metre high wall hides the façade of the existing building and prepares you for the interior transformations to come. The sequence of work and meeting areas reflects Gambardella’s long experience, shared with Simona Ottieri, in the world of interior architecture. Full use is made of colour contrasts while Gambardella’s signature metal grilles combine with details of abnormal and paradoxical appearance to...

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