SPE - Performance and Exhibition Space
Usually reviews of buildings, either new or renovated, are written when they have been completed, once they are ‘born'. Less often buildings are described in the embryonic stage of the project, before they are ‘born'. Rarely are they reflections on the ongoing construction, in an intermediary state, a work in progress, between project and final realisation. The particularity of the new complex known as Performance and Exhibition Space requires a brief progress report.
The Performance and Exhibition Space (SPE) is particular because it is part of the wider and complex project of Dello Scompiglio. This is a project to renovate the buildings and the landscape of the estate within a new cultural venture of dialogue and interaction with the elements. The building in the process of renovation, which will be used as a theatre and art gallery, is the hub of this microcosm, the central body of an updated and modern idea of cultural patronage, in which the open spaces, the land in all its varied forms - and the closed spaces - the buildings with their various functions - interact harmoniously like the ideal of the small renaissance city of days gone by.
Also particular is the specific programme to renovate the existing building intended for SPE: a collection of small adjoining buildings constructed at different times and in various styles, characterised by a tower roughly in the middle of the long edifice; these spaces will be renovated preserving their external identity and restructured internally into a single homogenous unit with a new function. The project involves the transformation of the old agricultural outbuildings into a Performance Space (dance, theatre, concerts) and the creation of a new area entirely underground, taken from the bowels of Scompiglio, for the purpose of an Exhibition Space (for visual arts). The design concept provides for and takes into account the versatility of the spaces, including a potential "reversal" of the work.
The Performance Space will be located at the western end of the new complex, have a capacity of 120 seats, and be equipped with a modern stage and scenery mechanics, as well as all the areas typical of this type of activity (foyer, rehearsal room, dressing rooms, various cloakrooms).
The Exhibition Space will consist of a collection of rooms of different sizes and double volume, which can also be used as spaces for supporting activities (library, storage, technical areas and facilities).
The complex will eventually include a range of services, from residencies for artists to theatre workshops, to services and so on, of a high standard, both technical and aesthetic, just as with other undertakings carried out at Scompiglio.
As with all the other restructured buildings of the estate, the SPE will pay equal attention to creating spaces using materials compatible with bio-architecture, fully respecting the environment and following the Dello Scompiglio policy of rational and sustainable use of resources; the cooling and heating systems will utilise geothermal techniques, exploiting the natural resources of ground source heat.
And for the rest, if it is not too banal an assumption, everything is as normal.
Now I will deal with a detail, which adds to the exceptional characteristics of the SPE; the construction of an ephemeral architecture devised to create the new underground structure, a technological frame made from raw and simple materials applied to an idea as old as forgotten, resurrected in a simple and clever manner, and which, once completed, will disappear in the dismantling of this phase of construction, finally bringing the new structure into existence.
Theatre, spectacle, display, are words always associated in the collective imagination to something fleeting, ephemeral, limited to the short duration of a standard performance.
The concept of an intrinsic architecture built specifically to create a new architecture, like a box within a box, perfectly describes the intermediate state of the construction, to illustrate a phase which, once finished, will have completely disappeared, but will have been fundamental to achieve the final result.
The most particular characteristic of the intervention was to extract the Exhibition Space from underground, without disturbing the building above: an environmental constraint obliged us to maintain the encasing perimeter walls. A system was therefore designed and implemented consisting of piles driven into the ground and connected at the ends above ground by kerbs of reinforced concrete, creating a grid of piles capable of supporting the walls of the existing building. Once this underground hidden structure was completed, excavation began, slowly bringing into existence the invisible structure, digging out the layers of earth around the piles until the required level of the concrete base of the building was reached.
The old building then appeared to be suspended in the air, supported only by a series of multiple steel poles, forming a ‘cathedral nave' composed of thin, tall, wiry columns, an empty space, constructed of raw, unfinished materials, such as steel, reinforced concrete, earth and rocks from the excavation, like the walls of a giant pool.
From this point a new casing has been created, consisting of structural elements such as reinforced concrete slab, walls, columns, beams, and floors. When completed, these elements will permanently support the existing building, rendering unnecessary the provisional support structure.
Now, whilst these lines are being written, huge blades of steel are in the process of cutting curbs and piles, and an enormous crane raises and shows off these important supports.
Descending the hill which dominates the estate, our gaze sweeps across the horizon, the skyline punctuated by the Apuan Alps, clear and perfect, in its naturalness. Approaching the area which borders the building site of the SPE and slowly lowering our gaze, we are able to admire the tower of the future Performance Space, a silent presence of the transition and transformation of the building, simple and upright, an architectural symbol of this edifice, awaiting undaunted its final completion.
A little theatre is being born from the bowels of the earth.
arch. Marco Guzzon
director of works
Caturegli Formica architetti associati