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Humanities Pole, University of Padua

Urban Relations and Contemporary Functions

Studio Architetto Mar | Pool Engineering | Galeazzo Architetti Associati

Humanities Pole, University of Padua

The new Humanities Pole of the University of Padua, northeast Italy, is strategically placed in a complex originally built at the beginning of the 16th Century as a convent outside the old city walls. Annexed to its church, the original convent featured various intricate connections and pathways through a series of cloisters and enclosed courtyards. Down the centuries, buildings and extensions were added as the place was put to different uses.

The 19th Century saw a radical change with its transformation into a hospital and hospice for the chronically and terminally ill, especially of society’s needy. Extensions and modernization continued from the 1880s up to the mid 20th Century. Elevations were redesigned to meet the 19th Century tendency to uniformity; buildings were demolished, sections rebuilt and new wings added. The cloister and courtyard format was, however, generally kept intact. In the 1970s, the place became a geriatric hospital until the facility’s final decommissioning. It was only at the beginning of the new millennium that the property was given a new lease of life with its purchase by the University of Padua and the plan to turn it into a new Humanities Pole, bringing together in one location the different faculties and service facilities dotted around the city, and adding a new central library.

The checkered architectural history of the complex required in-depth study before any new project could be launched. This was especially true in this case, since not only did the brief have to deliver a program to meet the modern demands of a university client, it was also required to contribute to a wider urban revitalization project aimed at seamlessly blending Padua’s many historical features with new architecture and technology. In this sense, the historic layout of courtyards and cloisters was a key asset for the new project, allowing parts of the university to be made...

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