Unipol headquarters in Bologna
Written by Archinfo.it
As an image of a metropolitan, sustainable European city, Bologna offers an example for the future. The capital of Emilia Romagna, Bologna is a point of passage, a place of meeting and trade and a livable city. It has long been a geographic intersection between north and south, an infrastructural hub and trade fair center, and a core of logistics, culture, university and manufacturing. The urban fabric's multi-centric nature led to a municipal structural plan defining seven local areas, called the seven cities, each with its own urban planning tools that together form the whole metropolitan area. The adoption of an architectural and infrastructural policy to transform large areas with localized projects seeks to improve and develop environmental quality. The railway station by Arata Isozaki and the fair district center by Kenzo Tange have made Bologna of a driver of new forms of urban planning. Further evidence of Bologna's urban renewal is the new urban complex on Via Stalingrado near the trade fair district. In the late 1980s, Bologna's master plan focused on certain parts of the city area lacking real identities, undeveloped and disconnected.
The need to control the areas between the ring avenues and the trade fair center as a whole and bring them into a unified, cohesive plan led to the drafting of a detailed plan. The master plan concerned a variety of sections whose real estate owners gathered in a consortium.
Giancarlo De Carlo and Ettore Masi were involved in preparing the plan. Masi later worked on the architectural plan for the building complex of Unipol's headquarters. This urban project involved rehabilitating the first swath of the outlying part of Bologna defined by degraded urban peripheries with problems of traffic congestion caused by fair events. The area's dramatic renovation affected the network of services, arrangement of parking areas, cycling and pedestrian paths and roadways. The urban layout followed a checkerboard pattern whose right angles were distorted to make room for urban empty spaces, green areas set at the edges of the volumes along the roadways. These form a series of interconnected centers. The design strategy also reconnected two neighboring districts, San Donato and Bolognina, each of which are on a radial axis and were separated by the high traffic thoroughfare of Via Stalingrado, which connects the city center with the highways. At this juncture, the Unipol headquarters was designed by Ettore Masi, a new centrally-set hub. The volumes are configured as a building bridging the main roadway, serving as a new gateway to the city. This gateway is called Porta Europa (Europe Gate) for its northern location. The large gateway's rational, concise style evokes the image of a megalith. Its simple geometric shape references the visionary architectural works of the 1960s and 1970s, Superstudio's continuous monument, the theme of large proportions and 4 theories about the city/local area.
The area under renovation led to the design choice to differentiate and separate the complex's new structures from the road level through two traffic systems. One is a cycling and pedestrian path and the other a vehicle road on two separate levels. On the site plan, the structures form two square centers, one larger than the other, joined by an apex. The larger area has a raised city square bound by buildings on three sides, forming a C. One of these is the new gateway. On the fourth side, a glulam and glass structure rises with an organic form. Low and lightweight, it holds the restaurant and stays open to a view of the city. The linear volumes along the perimeter of the square areas hold offices facing the city square. The intersection and closure of each linear element was underscored with crenellated towers, a historic reference to Bologna's architectural features. On the street level, in addition to a road for vehicle stopping and an atrium connecting the parking lots to the upper pedestrian area, there is a 500-seat hall, lit by large windows with shading devices. The system of visitor flows covers several levels and was designed based on optimal usage of the spaces. An important aspect is the new spatial configurations' ability to adapt over time. Two different construction systems define the offices' volumes. Up to the level of the square, the structure is reinforced cement, as are the connection towers. Above that, it is in steel. Vertically, the two structures stay along the external perimeter to ensure continuing flexibility for the interior spaces' distribution. The pursuit of environmental quality, with a view to sustainability and energy savings, was essential to the construction choices for the architectural envelope. The façades that are outside the square symbolically evoke the wall elements. Like a contemporary version of a city wall it surrounds the gateway to the sides and becomes an urban backdrop. The large gateway's austere mass appears as a materially compact solid structure with the cool hues of Luserna stone, contrasting with the warm hues of Persia stone and the Lavagna stone inserts that create the shadow and light effect of the vertical extension in the rhythmic sequence of the pilasters. The two façade types are made of porcelain stoneware from GranitiFiandre, applied to the technological system of the ventilated façades, a multi-layer package designed by Granitech, Engineering Division by GranitiFiandre meeting high standards of thermal and acoustic insulation through an air chamber that regulates thermal excursions and humidity year round. The façades facing the square are made of structural glazings in which the steel of the bearing structure is on view. The new Porta Europa development, despite the powerful impact of its volume, should be considered an attempt to give the outlying area of Bologna environmental quality, introducing an identity-forming character where it was lacking in the most neglected marginal parts of the city.
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Granitech deals with design and installation of ventilated walls and raised floors. Using state-of-the art technologies Granitech develops top quality solutions for important projects in contemporary architecture.
Ventilated walls are multi-layer construction solutions for "dry" cladding of outside walls, improving their aesthetic qualities, degree of protection and insulation.
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