Metalwork is an intriguing ancient artform that has played an important role throughout the history of architecture. And, since it continues to set itself new creative, technological, and manufacturing challenges, that role is no less important today. The simple, linear shapes of wrought iron or brass railings and screens, as well as the more complex, fluid motifs of entrances are all highlights of the range of products made by the Gonzato Group, which is now in its fiftieth year of manufacturing semi-finished and modular systems in metals.
Tradition and innovation can be found in equal measure in these products, which simultaneously offer security and beauty. The firm’s wrought iron and stainless steel solutions can be found inside some of the most important buildings and complexes around the world, for which it has collaborated with architects as well as direct clients. A few examples include Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, the Conte Vistarino vineyard in Pavia, the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, the Milano Centrale railroad station, and even Disneyland Paris.
From when it was established in 1228 right up to the age of Napoleon, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi building was the epicenter of Venetian trade. It later became a customs house and then a post office. It was recently returned to its traditional function and now hosts the 85 thousand square foot (7900 m2) space of the first European department store operated by DFS, a pioneering and world leading luxury travel retailer, owned by multinational luxury giant Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH).
Once the restoration and renovation of this historic building near the Rialto Bridge was completed, Gonzato supplied the railings for the panoramic rooftop terrace (which overlooks the Grand Canal), railings for openings onto the escalator wells, and the railings and finishes for the internal staircase, representing no less than 22 tons (20 t) of brass for semi-finished products and a total of 853 feet (260 m) of railings, including both untreated and 15 shades of burnished metal.
Brass perfectly combines both safety and beauty, as can be seen in the handrails of the internal stairs, characterized by their sophisticated LED lights, and in the lateral paneling, attached to metal framing. The geometries of the stairs are mimicked by the panels, with each one custom made to integrate with them and provide maximum structural rigidity. The same is true of all the railings, thanks to the use of special retractable mechanical fasteners.
All this is the result of the project developed by architect Rem Koolhaas, while the working drawings were the work of the studio C+S Architects, Carlo Cappai e Maria Alessandra Segantini. This is a department store that goes beyond its traditional role to become a meeting place for the local community.
Elegance, a meld of classic and modern, and nature are the dominant features of this timeless residence within an ancient palace in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, now renovated with full respect for the ancient traditions of the central Asian city but also as a kind of open-air architectural laboratory. In part, this was made possible by the design skill of Louise Jones to transform large residential properties into timeless homes.
Gonzato created the wrought iron railings for the central staircase, the soul of the entire residence with its classic overtones, and the main entrance, both blending perfectly with the natural materials chosen for the interiors – iron, marble, and walnut, which each add to the other with their different textures and shades, all of which is enhanced by natural light from abundant sources.
The strongest source of the home’s identity, the staircase rises upwards with its fluid form, with the shapes of the railings creating a rhythm of full and empty spaces – an effect that’s underscored by the choice of finishes and the customized design by Matt Livsey Hammond.
Gonzato also built and installed the main entrance, a symbol of the privacy of the interiors as well as a physical and emotional connection between inside and out. Besides recalling the shape of the staircase, the curving, waving lines of the wrought iron are combined with glass, with its central section especially creating a proper balance between intimacy and distance with its decorative work set in closed structures.
The centuries-old history and traditions of Italy’s Oltrepò Pavese winemaking area are inextricably linked to the name of Count Augusto Giorgi di Vistarino and his estate – over two thousand acres (800 h) of vineyards, wooded areas, a villa, a museum, a wine shop, and the wine cellar operated by the Conte Vistarino winemakers. Named the House of Pinot Noir, the cellar was fully renovated between 2017 and 2018 to optimize research facilities to meet current needs as well as to preserve the pioneering spirit of its founder and pass it on to future generations.
The project, the work of Andrea Borri Architetti, occupies 35.5 thousand square feet (3300 m2) on four levels, where wines move through the different production stages using the gravity flow system throughout. This system prompted the building of a wrought iron spiral staircase with flat bar railings between three floors. The structure was made entirely in the Gonzato factory and then welded together onsite. The staircase has an enormous visual influence on the interiors, both for its design and its ability to create an entirely new look through the strong contrasts it creates between the color of its metal and the wood of the barrels. Finished with a transparent varnish, it also responds to the client’s desire for a natural look.
Just a stone’s throw from the Champs Elysees and with views of the Eiffel Tower, the Four Seasons Hotel George V has, since 1928, brought the art deco and art nouveau styles to Paris’s Golden Triangle, fusing them with elements of contemporary elegance. Famous for the flower displays in the lobby, this historical building was recently renovated. Intended to make its spaces larger and more comfortable, the project centered on new walls and doors.
Using wrought iron, stainless steel, and brass, Gonzato has created numerous elegantly decorated doors and entranceways, as well as railings in the health spa area. Designed for the wellbeing of mind and body, the spa features a continuous cross-reference between the classic and the contemporary, the railings by the pool, for example, creating chromatic and material contrasts with the rest of the architecture, enhanced by the natural light from the windows.
Set atop a hill overlooking Monteriggioni Castle and lying on the Via Francigena, an ancient watchtower has become an epicenter of innovation and research into sustainability and clean energy. A medieval structure built on three levels, Podere Cerreto has been renovated both inside and out by studio O - Ancilli & Meridor with collaboration of Cristiano Bianchi.
The construction work uncovered eight centuries of the history of what was once also a stage on the pilgrimage route between Rome and Canterbury. This history is told especially well by certain architectural elements, such as the Tuscan fireplace, and materials, like the stone of the walls. All the surviving elements have been retained in the renovation, the old enhanced by the new through analogy, the materials by contrasting juxtapositions. Preserving the balance between the existing structure and its surroundings was a central part of the project, as demonstrated, for example, by the pine-colored resin floor.
The spiral staircase, which occupies the center of the tower, really deserves a whole chapter to itself. A wrought iron structure manufactured by the Gonzato group, the staircase not only performs a number of different functions, but also gives the inner spaces a highly distinctive character. Illuminated from above by custom-made light fittings, it adds an original and identity-defining aspect to this ancient building.
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Fondaco dei Tedeschi:
Progetto e design: Rem Koolhaas, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli
Progetto esecutivo: C+S Architects, Carlo Cappai e Maria Alessandra Segantini
Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani, Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Gonzato Group
Residenza privata Astana:
Progetto: Louise Jones, Matt Livsey Hammond
Photo: courtesy of Gonzato Group
Cantina di Conte Vistarino:
Progetto: Andrea Borri Architetti
Photo: Jacopo Spilimbergo, courtesy of Gonzato Group
Four Seasons George V:
Photo: Gianluca Santoro, courtesy of Gonzato Group
Architecture & Interior Design: studio O-Ancilli & Meridor, in collaboration with C. Bianchi
Photo: Jacopo Spilimbergo, courtesy of Gonzato Group