Complexity through scales - ISPLORA

Trailer Complexity Through Scales

Not eligible for AIA Credits

Architecture must be able to respond to today’s needs [...], with today’s contemporaneity and technique

– L. Schiavon

This research, through the words of engineer Luciano Schiavon – a product of the Ticino school and associate of one of its most important exponents, Aurelio Galfetti – is the starting point of the lesson, which opens a narrative made of “measures” and changes of scale, from detail to the project in its complexity, through the in-depth investigation of a flexible and integrated technological and architectural element: the raised floor.

From here, the lesson explores nine different architectural creations, nine works of different sizes capable of integrating within them a versatile and innovative construction solution. Nine case studies, different spaces and design scales, from urban reality to detail  from extra-large to extra-small  to delve into the theme of complexity in its design and technological, spatial and volumetric, formal and compositional interpretations.

An investigation, a journey through large construction sites of an integrated nature, from Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi, to La Nuvola by Massimiliano Fuksas in Rome, to the MAXXI Foundation by Zaha Hadid, also in Rome. Spaces for exhibitions and shows, conventions and conferences, with the need for extreme functionality and flexibility, capable of guaranteeing accessibility and safety

Also, new urban pieces inserted within expanding fabrics – as in the case of the NET Center in Padua by Aurelio Galfetti of LVL Architetti –, or projects for the restoration and enhancement of the architectural heritage, such as the work for the usability of Palazzo Bonaparte in Rome and the protection of its ancient mosaics.

Projects that work on the scale of detail, finish and material, as in the reinterpretation of a microcosm on a human scale for Diorama, the dressing room designed by the Calvi Ceschia Viganò firm inside the Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan by Vittorio Gregotti and Mario Botta.

Nine places with different complexities, linked by a versatile and modular technological solution, the raised floor. A system that, born in its standard 60x60 cm form already in the mid-20th century for functional needs and intended as an alternative to traditional stratigraphy, works exactly on the possibility of integrating different components in its thickness, contemplating within its modularity the possibility of making technical and plant engineering aspects dialogue with those of a formal nature.

Starting from here, a great evolution. Manifesto of an architecture composed of elements, details and fragments, the research of Fundamentals – Rem Koolhaas, Venice Biennale 2014 –, represented a significant moment of collective investigation on the fundamentals of building, the synthetic elements capable of representing the complexity of an architectural creation. Here, in the “Floors” section, the raised floor becomes a synonym for sustainability, innovation, comfort and experimentation. A new research aimed at the future, more and more accurate and customized, where material and technology work in symbiosis to achieve high performing and formal levels.

Examples of this are the constant search for highly recyclable materials so as to reduce new productions, improving the efficiency of the life cycle and its maintenance. Moreover, total compatibility with the requirements of the new LEED, BREEAM, WELL and FSC certifications, as well as great structural and anti-seismic resistance, together with thermo-hygrometric and acoustic one, to wear and abrasion.

Characteristics typical of the single technological and architectural element, “fundamental” and intrinsic, capable of manifesting themselves in the Vitruvian triad of firmitas, stability, utilitas, functional utility and venustas, harmony of proportions, generative principles for a complex and articulated architecture that can respond coherently to the needs of today’s fast and changing society. 

Learning objectives

  • The lesson deals with the topic of constructive complexity through nine different case studies, of different design scales, in order to analyze and compare the different concept, construction and building processes, from Jean Nouvel’s Louvre to La Nuvola by Fuksas, from Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI to the NET Center by Aurelio Galfetti;
  • Starting from Rem Koolhaas’s lesson “Fundamentals – Elements of Architecture”, the lesson critically investigates the technological solution of the raised floor as a system capable of integrating different construction needs within architecture (structural, functional, plant engineering, formal, etc.);
  • Moving through different case studies, the lesson addresses and describes the topic of environmental sustainability, life cycle and flexibility of projects, as well as highly recyclable and/or reusable material choices;
  • The lesson shows the implications of research and innovation on the subject, investigating the compatibility parameters of the projects analyzed to obtain specific certifications such as LEED, BREEAM, WELL and FSC.


Louvre Abu Dhabi

Photography: Roland Halbe


Photography: Francesca Maiolino


Photography: Roland Halbe

Palazzo Bonaparte

Photography: Diego De Pol

Net Center

Chiesa S. Michele

Photography: Diana Lapin


Photography: Luca Privitera

Sanlorenzo Yacht

Photography: Thomas Pagani

Campus Navigli

Photography: Ugo De Berti - UDB Studio


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