Plaxil 8 |
Rome || Italy
The sizeable Porta di Roma Shopping District, lying north of the city just off the Rome ring road, has three hypermarkets and a large double storey shopping mall. It also has a vast two-level underground parking lot to ensure sufficient space for all the shoppers' cars. The complex almost looks like part of a city district. Pedestrian walkways criss-cross the platform. The skylights stand out as they are covered with metal sheets, creating sharp geometrical lines in a recurrent theme. The layout and architectural structure of the complex have a clear identity, with a raised core formed of a platform or pedestal from which the volumes rise.
The choice of materials is another indication of design decisions. For example, the shop walls are made of reinforced concrete slabs that, through their colour and finish, recall tuff stone. The
prefab slabs have been painted in the nuances of traditional stone and even have the porous appearance of tuff. The result is seemingly the creation of terracing, an artificial relief defined by dual colour bands of horizontal volumes.
The B1 office tower is an integral part of this architectural landscape. The clearly geometrical volume rises 13 floors, providing a landmark for the entire complex. It also adds functionally to the complex and helps create the urban rationale in which different parts form the whole. The building was initially meant to be a hotel or a residential block with studio flats and a few larger apartments on each floor. However, things changed during the creation of the building, meaning it became necessary to be both residential (starting from the sixth floor) and offices, with separate, parallel entrances
on the ground floor. This change in function did not lead to alterations in the basic plan, with the general layout being maintained. The long longitudinal corridor, stairwell and lifts located centrally towards the north-eastern façade all remained.
The aggregation of the units has produced small flats, providing good options for temporary accommodation. The typical floor has three studio flats, four two-room flats (effectively studio flats grouped together) and two three-room flats on the western side. "Grouping" was also used for the office section, resulting in five equally large offices.
The truly original trait of the tower building lies in the balconies and terraces found on three of the four sides. The south-east façade has no balconies and is lined with photovoltaic panels against blind walls. Most of the flats
extend outwards with a series of balconies connected to one another in geometrical patterns that act like distinctive decorative elements, almost signs. The balconies form repeated horizontal lines along the south-west elevation and mark the corners of the north-west façade, turning onto the other façades and connecting to each other. The effect is notable, producing a vertical meandering motif that also highlights the consistency of the volumes. As such, the larger units have a sort of loggia across two sides. The balcony parapets, in perforated sheets, add to the texture of the elevations as the walls are lined with generally grey and blue metal sheets. This links up nicely with the south-eastern wall, where the photovoltaic panels create a pattern of blue stripes.
As a whole, the design of the Tower acts as the catalyst for
how one perceives the entire complex, with all its distinctive features. It marks the landscape on the outer rim of the city, becoming of value for the city itself and not just an aggregation of shopping areas.
Client: Porta di Roma
Gross Floor Area: 13.660 m2
Cost of Construction: 14.000.000 Euro
Architects: Valle Architetti Associati - Piero Valle, Ugo Tranquillini, Stefano Bindi, con Servizio Ingegneria Lamaro Appalti
Strutture: SBG & Partners - biggiguerrini ingegneria
Fotografie: © Giuseppe dall’Arche
Valle Architetti, with offices in Udine and Milan, comprises thirteen architects involved in architectural design and urban planning. Set up in the early 1950s by Nani and Gino Valle, the practice has won several international awards for its design of commercial, manufacturing and residential complexes in important Italian and international cities, including New York, Paris and Berlin. Since 2003, Pietro Valle and Piera Ricci Menichetti have headed the firm, which is now involved in several large-scale projects in the tertiary and public sectors in various Italian cities.
In recent years, the practice completed the final design and construction of the new Deutsche Bank headquarters in Milan’s Bicocca district (1997–2005) and the Municipal Theatre of Vicenza (2001–07). As a part of a plan for the conversion of Milan’s Portello district, Valle Architetti designed and built the Aggregato Commerciale shopping complex (2003–05), which received an honourable mention in the 2006 Gold Medal for Italian Architecture. It is currently completing an office complex in the same area, which was featured at the AILATI exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2011.
In Rome, the firm designed and built the Porta di Roma shopping centre as part of the plan for the Bufalotta area (1997–2007), created the urban plan for a business park in Fiumicino (2003–05) and initiated the Mercedes theme park on the city’s GRA ring road (2008–09).
In Udine, it designed and built the new Olympic city bowling centre (2003–11). The practice is currently working on the design of a University of Padua complex, comprising student accommodation, a language centre, and a convention centre. In collaboration with Arezzo-based company Mabo Bibbiena, the firm is working on a prefabricated system of social housing. As a part of this project, it has built residential development in Trezzano Rosa (Milan), Mozzate (Como) and Marino (Rome).
In 2012, Valle Architetti won first prize in an invitation-only competition for a technology park in Cluj-Napoca (Romania). Recently, the firm won the competition for the final detailed design of the open-air theatre for Expo 2015 in Milan.
Pietro Valle (Udine, 1962) is currently in charge of architectural and urban design at Valle Architetti. He graduated in architecture from the Venice lstituto Universitario di Architettura in 1987 and obtained a Master of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge (USA) in 1989. He worked at the practices of Boris Podrecca in Vienna (1985–86), Emilio Ambasz in New York (1989) and Frank O Gehry in Los Angeles (1989–90). From 1996 to 2003, he was a member of Carlini e Valle Architetti Associati in Trieste, where he worked as an architect and designer of contemporary art exhibition fixturing. In 1990, he joined Valle Architetti, becoming an associate member in 2003.
Since 1994, he has lectured at various universities in Europe and the USA as a visiting professor of architectural design: University of Kansas (1992–94), Kansas State University (1994–96), Syracuse University New York (1999–2003) and the Faculty of Architecture of Ferrara (1997–2007). He writes for several architecture journals, including Lotus International, Casabella and arch'it, for which he writes the Artland column. He has published three books: the anthology arch'it papers (Navado Press, 2005), Dan Graham, Half Square-Half Crazy (Charta, 2005) in collaboration with Adachiara Zevi, and the monograph Mecanoo, Experimental Pragmatism (Skira, 2006).