Beyond the surface - ISPLORA

Trailer Beyond the surface

While in archeology a stratum is a layer below the surface in which artifacts from the same era are found, and in geology a set of rocks permanently distributed over a length, width, and thickness, in architecture stratigraphy means a building or artistic technique that aims at the formation or transformation of a physical element through the superimposition of continuous layers along a surface. Thousand-year-old wall structures, for example, such as the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, or megalithic architecture, are the result of a stratified system that uses balance and weight as fundamental building elements.

Therefore, the metaphorical vision of a stratification implies a sequence of events over time capable of bringing to light complexities of historical and cultural situations that can be read on wall surfaces and within urban plots. An example is the case study of Formigine, an urban reality located not far from Modena, on the road towards Maranello and Sassuolo. A collective dimension in which the historical fabric blends with the building interventions of the last two decades, leaving room for a continuous dialogue between the Castle and the existing building, reinterpreted and rethought in a contemporary key. The firm Ambientevario fits into this scenario, paying close attention to environmental and energy sustainability in its interventions, through its constant research of materials and attention to detail.

Design thus becomes a way of interpreting what already exists and the effects of history on surfaces, just like a material book of which one can read all the stratigraphy, transforming it into opportunities for design and compositional reflection; the heritage of signs or remains, which are found and reused in different ways and for different purposes. Each intervention is thus translated into a tool for dialogue and response to climate change, in which elements of building tradition are combined with innovative materials that are always recognizable and become compositional elements of a renewed design approach. 

In a narration that turns its gaze to the leap in scale - as if to bring to light the matter, bones and soul of the buildings created by Ambientevario – there are four interpretation layers: the first one is the city and its structure, in relation to the respect of the place and the surrounding environment; the second one is the narration of the material, of the envelope, in the expression of the use of a material selection and attention to detail; the third one is the narration of the “bony” structure of the building, aimed at attention to environmental and energy sustainability; and the fourth one is the perceptive and sensitive narration of the link between the architectural work and the human being who inhabits it.

Thus, the reuse of the complex including the Ex Officine Tosi and the Ambientevario headquarters itself become manifestos of a design approach and way of thinking: on the one hand, the project of the Ex Officine includes the renovation with a seismic adaptation and elevated extension of the building carried out using a system of load-bearing X-Lam wooden panels; on the other hand, the firm’s headquarters focuses on the enhancement of the original architectural aspects, making them the main furnishing elements, revealing the will to respect the nature of laboratory/workshop inherent in the building.

The project of Casa BN - in which contrast is placed at the center of the thematic intervention approach - and Casa Vivaio - still in its building phase – also become part of the narration, as well as the project of Piazza Italia in which Ambientevario rethinks an existing mixed-use building - commercial and residential - in a contemporary key, giving back to the citizenship a building characterized by multiple materials, capable of a continuous dialogue with its past and with the surrounding public context.

Learning objectives:

  • The lesson explores the design choices that characterize working on the city. How the architect can express the many unexpressed potentials of the urban fabric by recovering the pre-existing to preserve its memory and project the building into the future of its evolutionary process. Respect for memory is identified with respect for the place and the environment in which it is set.
  • Working on existing buildings means paying close attention to detail and materials, the subject of study in this lesson. In the relationship between new and pre-existing, distinguishing between what has manifest value and what has unexpressed value, paying special attention to what is protected by finding a key to its material rewriting.
  • Attention to environmental and energy sustainability, pivotal themes of the talk, is explored. Working on an existing building also means renovating it structurally, bringing it up to a high seismic standard - through the reinforcement of its foundations and load-bearing walls -and energy-wise – by incorporating a coating system, solar panels, photovoltaic panels and integrating greenery.
  • The lesson also focuses on the topic of perception. By rethinking, rewriting, and redesigning some single buildings within the urban fabric of the city, a change in the use of space can be seen: each architectural action corresponds to a change in the urban layout aimed at the citizen’s well-being. 


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