Client: Comune di San Giovanni Bianco
Status: Competition (2016)
Location: San Giovanni Bianco, Italy
Coordinates: 45.873787, 9.6538064
Climate: Humid subtropical, Temperate
Environments: Riverside, Urban
Types: Cultural, Cultural center, Refurbishment
The project, located in San Giovanni Bianco ‐ Italy, converts a disused building from the XIX century into a multifunctional complex which accommodates a Museum, a Public Library, a Reading room and Offices for the local authority. The intervention consists of three simple volumes acting as independent architectural objects, joined together in a new building called “Casa della Cultura” (The Culture House). Each building block is independent yet necessary and tightly interconnected to the others by an internal path which binds the whole complex together. Each volume corresponds to a specific use, and it is characterized by a distinctive material palette and a unique roof. The result achieved is a dynamic building where colours, light and textures vary, and new interesting spatial relationships are formed.
In order to better describe and characterize the three blocks an imaginary definition has been assigned, a nickname to refer to three evocative objects: “The Villa”, “The Treasure Chest”, “The Whale”. The relationship between Casa della Cultura and the landscape is respectful but bold. Situated on the Brembo river side, the intervention is designed at a good distance from the river and its streams. The project maximises the usable areas of the sloping terrain, voiding the unnecessary felling of existing trees and creating a new series of squares and public spaces on the street and in the park.
The Villa, an old and disused police station, overlooks the new public promenade aside the river. The development retains the external appearance and the existing building is seen as an opportunity to establish a creative dialogue between the urban context and the new additions, transforming the Villa into a pivotal landmark of the regenerated riverside.
Whilst the external look of the building is restored and maintained the interiors are heavily modified. With existing internal floors unsuitable to house new functions these have been removed. The outcome is a naked container, a full height foyer filled with light and visual connections to all parts of Casa della Cultura. A large opening to the rear elevation connects The Villa to The Treasure Chest – namely the Museum and the Public Library ‐ and allows all internal spaces to be flooded with natural light from the shed roof above and the opening on the villa’s facade. The monumental entrance also underlines the importance of the new functions and allows the internal foyer to be used in flexible ways.
A long coloured wooden box, a piece of supersized furniture, is placed in between the Villa and the Treasure Chest stitching the areas together and serving to promote circulation through the spaces. At the entrance, the box is featured with a sinuous staircase which wraps up leading to the museum above, a long wide space overlooking the public library below. This oversized furniture effectively acts as “a box in the box”, and hides beneath facilities for the local authority, the toilets and the storage room. Internally, the walls are covered by open shelves to store the elevated number of books required by the Public Library. Their configuration isn’t fixed and leaves the opportunity to host temporary exhibitions as a parallel activity of the museum.
The envelope of the Treasure Chest gently grounded in the terrain, describes a mute, plain, concrete building, an object that deals with the surrounding landscapes without revealing the activity inside. The slight offset between the building and the Villa allows for a small extension to be located at the front. This is the Reading Room, a space which belongs to the library but also to the public promenade aside the river. Its material appearance differs completely from the other two, incorporating wooden shingles, making it look like a shed or a small garden architecture.
The shape of the reading room is a cosy enclosed space, called The Whale. The inside, entirely clad with wooden fins, hosts loose pieces of furniture that can be moved around or assembled together. The atmosphere is the one of a living room where pendant lights, pillows, carpets and soft seats encourage the customers to relax and read. Three big windows connect this space with the outside promenade and frame the stunning view of the old historical centre of San Giovanni Bianco.