Architecture of the month
Rome || Italy
The design of Confcooperative’s new offices involves the restoration of an historical building from the late 19th Century located in the consolidated fabric of Rome. Over the course of time, the original building has undergone numerous changes that have altered the basic plan and the organization of spaces. The building has six floors and a total surface area of about 4.000 sq. m.
“The Confcooperative group is a complex corporate business with multiple identities that cooperate within a common structure; this twofold, unique and specific nature steered the design towards a neutral language, creating a recognizable image for the company, but also meeting the diverse needs of the various different professional realities”, explains Alessandro Cambi, partner of It’s. The design by It’s defines a balance with respect to the different periods that co-exist in the building, creating a dialectic between the original 19th Century elements and the more contemporary ones. The project constantly deals with two different eras:
the historical aspect, retrieved by restoration of its original structure – freed of all the elements that had later compromised that identity – and the contemporary, introduced by means of the construction of new architecture. Areas of historic walling alternate with thin glass walls and classical materials such as marble are placed alongside new light materials such as reflective aluminum; a vertical green wall highlights the geometry of the stone courtyard. The project has provided the opportunity for research and experimentation in the improvement and restoration of heritage using the BIM approach, which has been central to all phases: from design to management of site elements and on to the future management of the building.
BIM was used to elaborate the design project and to plan and run the construction site: added to which, by means of the data-filled model it is possible to follow the life of the building during its activity and in particular document energy consumption and use of space. “Laser technology provided the initial survey of the space so that by means of an x-ray of the building we were able to investigate its structural condition in detail, measuring the actual wall thicknesses and finding hidden and inaccessible cavities”, as explained by Matteo Sarrocco, BIM Manager Parallel Digital. White Carrara marble is the prevalent material used for internal flooring, re-worked in a contemporary key in thin slabs of a milky color, each measured, produced and numbered by means of the BIM model.
The reducing process of materials also characterizes the vertical dividing partitions between workspaces, made of high-performance sheer glass panes that are patterned to heighten the reflection of external light into the internal areas of the building and to create a pattern that affords visual privacy to single offices. The internal light was planned and assessed through simulations as part of the BIM model, permitting analysis of the best relationship between natural and artificial light. From a vertical point of view the spatial re-design hinged on the position of the original staircase, substituting it with a strip of white marble and reflective steel to unite the various floors. These elements were assembled off site and each panel finished in steel was geometrically checked and laser cut using the digital model. BIM also guarantees constant dialogue with the building, likening it to a live and active organism, and rapidity of construction times: 15 months from the beginning of the project to completion. So the site takes on a new digital dimension integrating artisanal experience and skill with technological innovation. The density of 19th Century construction brings with it the complex theme of how to capture light and make it reverberate. Adopting an approach that was in part inspired by the architecture of Luigi Moretti reworked in a contemporary key, the design aimed to send diffuse light through the interiors and spread it by every possible means: through the materials and chrome finishes as well as the design of the area. White marble from Carrara is the chosen material for internal flooring, re-elaborating it in a contemporary style by a reduction in the thickness of the slabs; Alpine green marble and Portugal pink marble mark out the common parts of the building, clearly identifying areas for collective use with a polychrome theme. The organization of space was also redesigned in the vertical, using the position of the original staircase while substituting it with a strip of white marble and reflective steel, connecting the different floors that rise to the building’s terrace, designed as a hanging garden opening onto the horizons of the city. “For a building the staircase is the heart of a human organism: it distributes the flows and regulates the intensities inside the building. We emptied the space containing the staircase and brought in a new element in reflective steel, allowing the light to fill this vast empty space, from top to bottom; down to a depth of 21 m, a sort of hollow obelisk that transmits light and the passage of the sun.” Outside too, the search for luminosity informed the main design choices, in particular that of white for the façades. “The use of white - explains Alessandro Cambi – renders the textures, molding and cornices homogenous, returning the façade to a purity of essential lines, as though awaiting a new meaning in the contemporary era.” Thanks to this choice, the building changes its urban presence, becoming an object that bears light within the local city fabric and setting off a new system of chromatic relationships that make it a strong intermediary element on the axis between the Church of Santa Susanna and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Location: Rome, Italy
Completion Date: 2018
Client: Confcooper Società Cooperativa
Gross Floor Area: 4.100 m2
Main Contractors: Consorzio Consital, CEA Cooperativa Edile Appennino, L’Operosa impianti
BIM: Parallel Digital
Structural: Dedalo Ingegneria
Plant Equipment: AG&C Associati
Safety Coordinator: Francesco Bindi
Landscape Design: Paisà
Furniture: Arper, Vitra, Danese, Artemide
Photography: © Francesco Mattuzzi, courtesy of It’s