Mediating between historic town and evolving outskirts, an austere block of gres porcelain quietly embodies a bigger urban transformation.
location: Reggio Emilia
status: project and works direction, 2006-2009
collaborator: Daniela Conti
program: Associazione Commercianti headquarters, offices and retail
photos: Paola De Pietri
Located in the first northern outskirts of the city of Reggio Emilia, the road that connects the center with the highway, the new headquarters of Confcommercio is 800 meters from the historic center. The building is located in an area between the state railway and a water stream and is included in a management complex of which it is the main building. Entirely directional, the building consists of two buildings joined together, one 8-storey and the other 3 floors, in addition to a common basement. Located at the apex of a vast triangle, the building follows the shape of the area in plan. Between the two buildings a trapezoidal pedestrian square is formed. The upper body is entirely occupied by the Confcommercio headquarters, the lower one by private offices, by a bank branch, and by a public office. The public parking contains 165 parking spaces; the private garage below the building contains 32 cars and has spaces for motorcycles and bicycles. The building is at the point where; following the historical axis of penetration into the city from the north, the urban landscape changes from the expanding city to the suburbs being transformed. The building appears unexpected at the exit from the underpass towards the city center and its size is amplified by the difference in altitude. In reality, insertion is peremptory but does not want to be indifferent to the existing urban fabric consisting of lower buildings.
And so the complex is divided into two parts: a low factory building parallel to the southern border that relates to the row of existing buildings and shields the heterogeneous ranks and a high body joined to the first but angled in order to get away from the border. The parallelepiped of the upper body is lightened from the third floor with a large glass volume projecting towards the city and from the fifth floor with a deep excavation to form a three-storey open gallery open to the north and east but closed to the west, except for a narrow and high cut that lets a blade of light penetrate at sunset. The building changes to each side and changes every 3 floors in height and it is precisely in the night vision that highlights the complexity of the mole with its many faces. The structure of the building is in reinforced concrete, calculated according to the latest earthquake regulations and is based on deep piles. Designed for the maximum containment of energy consumption, the building is covered with slabs of large porcelain stoneware mounted on a substructure that forms an air space for the summer ventilation of the facades. The high-thickness thermal insulation arranged continuously on all perimeter surfaces ensures the absence of thermal bridges in correspondence with the structural elements. In a directional building, maximum brightness must be ensured on the one hand to reduce the use of artificial lighting, on the other the lower heat loss due to glass: a contradiction that requires the utmost attention to the choice of glasses to be installed.
The building is served by district heating and heat pump refrigeration units, and a 300-square-meter photovoltaic system is installed, so that the energy class A is reached. Internal organization remains flexible and no demolitions are required for layout changes. For this reason it has been decided to realize the internal partitions movable walls; moreover, those partitions are glazed in order to bring natural light into the building, reducing artifical lighting to a minimum. All offices have natural light levels higher than 30% to 100% at regulatory values depending on the exposure. All the rooms are heated and cooled by means of individually controlled fan coils to allow the customization of the microclimatic conditions in a defined range and with forced air exchange in the most crowded areas (teaching classrooms, 80-seat conference halls and meeting rooms).