Montelupo Fiorentino || Italy
This project on Tuscan territory, at Montelupo Fiorentino, is a venue for the arts – indeed, a living workshop for the dissemination of the contemporary arts. As a pro-active place of memory, the art explicitly manifests its tangibility alongside the architecture, seeking and achieving a deep-rooted integration of landscape, works of art, exhibition space and the workshop itself by leveraging a sense of architecture as an observer of its own unfurling reality, in which sedimentation and contemporaneity can and do spark one another... This approach to architecture has a de facto corollary in the depth of the underlying thought. It is architecture that listens and proposes; architecture as an interpreter of artistic creativity, synthesizing an art-led pathway in both the ideal and physical sense of the term.
The project is subject to evolution over time. A long period of time elapses during a project’s lifetime: time as a balancing act between the need to establish a new place and the need to refine the underlying ideas, in an ongoing and fundamental evolution of the design concept. The goal was to design the elements needed to dynamically establish a co-existence and cohesion between architecture and art. The idea of a “pathway”, an integral part of architecture, forms an integral part of the project.
The pathway was a hallmark feature of these architectural volumes at the initial design stage, circumscribing and enclosing an area within which - through the spiraling pathway of volumes as they close in on themselves - a cognitive experience triggers, an experience propelled towards art, architecture and the landscape, absorbed and embraced by the construction of the building as a multiplicity of the possible.
The constructed volumes propound the idea of an architectural object that, at this stage of the project, explores and offers different, articulated visions: as the spiral rises, its architectural volumes become linear and squared-off, like regular prisms headed for the sky. In an analogous manner, when it came to location (something that became an issue owing to administrative problems), the land and the locality had their own subtle guidance and evocations to offer. The gentle, hilly surroundings offered direct orientation for the workshop’s design, drinking in the color of the earth, the crops that grow all around, and the ancient hilltop copse, a further punctuation mark that acts as a border vibrant with color and nature.
The project echoes the same key idea, the cognitive and architectural route into the form, homing in on the sensibilities that art is capable of expressing and stating through the combined impact of a work’s tangibility and ideality. The pathway is formed from a plurality of ideas: physical form, on the ground, rising via a ramp to the upper level, defining the building by way of a wall that also serves as an “enclosure”… an open enclosure, strongly defined. The elevations reveal portions of enclosed wall, and then the large central hollow space opens out along one side, via a portico that serves as a conduit out and into the landscape.
The whole approach is consistent with the idea of “crossing over”, with the very fostering of artistic creativity: the architecture of the Bagnoli foundation/atelier encloses, incorporates and separates, while at the same time opening up to the light of sensitivity outside, to a kind of dissolution of the internal/external dichotomy through a synthesis that embraces the countryside and the materials used for the construction. Cutaways in the volumes and through routes coax softened, fluid geometries into dialogue with the thickness and concreteness of the material. The central hollow allows the works of art within to emerge, while the open side of the “enclosure” acts as a kind of central hub, fostering an exchange between nature and artifice. The dynamics of nature are mediated and, at least partially, reproduced.
The value of time diffuses throughout the architecture – not just the time it takes for an artistic creation to be assembled along the ideal pathway narrated by the project, but time as a process for the variation and transformation of matter. Time sedimented. Time that enriches our perception. Time that narrates our interpretations in a union of materials and technique – including the technical mastery of yore, such as using fire in a controlled burn to scorch wooden materials – that engenders a complex web between the architecture and the local environment… indeed with nature itself. The ramp and pathway intersecting the architectural volumes loom up from a floor of clay and pozzolan laid on a base of scorched interwoven rushes. Some portions of the wall are a combination of pozzolan, lime, reeds and fire. The earthen color, a feature that continues throughout the building, will vary over time, regulating the time-based “route” this architecture takes along yet another pathway. Simple elements create up a dynamic web of form and volumes, striking off down physical and ideal pathways to elicit a sense of harmony in the atelier. This dynamism continues on into the future, with the option to expand the atelier below ground; there is dynamism too in how the venue has swallowed up an abandoned warehouse, turning it into a space for exhibitions and activities, leveraging light that filters in through the shed roofing. The venue is a locus for interaction, mapping out a hub for the multiplicity of contemporary arts: the hollow center unites both works and visuals, enhanced by a raised vantage point along the high wall/enclosure pathway that interacts with the ground level in an interplay of near and far; all the while, the sculptural works lend depth to the whole.
Location: Montelupo Fiorentino (FI)
Client: Marco Bagnoli
Gross Floor Area: 2000 m2
Architects: Toti Semerano
Design Team: Stefano Zanardi, Ludovica Fava, Salvatore Musarò, Stefano Sabato, Iride Filoni, Stefano Antonello, Andrea Piscopo, Gunar Thom, Caterina Zaccaria, Joao Loureiro
Works Management: Arch. Luciano Scali
Structural: Eng. Antonangelo Schipani
Thermotechnics: Eng. Giovanni Barbieri
Building Works: Edilsavy
Windows Frames: Benassi
Photography: © Stefano Zanardi, © Mario Lensi
LABORATORIO DI ARCHITETTURA
The Laboratorio di Architettura began its life as the Semerano professional practice. Now an Architecture Workshop, it focuses its business on the area around Padua and Lecce. In 2005, the practice opened offices at a former tobacco works in the countryside near Lecce – a massive space built in an orange grove surrounded by thirteen hectares of sunflowers, the perfect place to come together or to be solitary, all the while cultivating a passion for art and architecture like a veritable Renaissance-era workshop.
As an architectural incubator, the Laboratorio di Architettura attracts young architects from around the world, who come to do professional commissions and carry out research, working with people from other professions on new forms of boundary-breaking experimentation into design.
The Laboratorio is a common denominator to a great swathe of independent people. Conceived not as an office but as an open space – space that can be accessed physically and online – it has become a focal point for many ‘footloose professionals’ who bring their own special experience to the process.
Toti Semerano is an architect and artist, a versatile and multi-faceted professional who cuts his own path rather than being part of the establishment. Semerano has always sought to push the technical and plastic boundaries, using leading-edge techniques and traditional materials alike with gusto to create unusual, open-ended forms conceived to undergo continuous transformation.
Recent awards: Winner, The Plan Award 2017 Honorable Mention - “Culture” category, The Plan Award 2015 - “Special Projects” category, Pida 2012 - Career Award, Merit Award - ”Taiwan Towers Conceptual Design Competition” 2010, Biennale Internazionale di Architettura Barbara Cappochin 2009 Award for Exceptional Attention to Architectural Detail.