On architectures for the public realms, and their relations with the public space
Architecture is based on the endless tension between openness and enclosure, connection and separation, protection and exposure. Porosity is a fundamental quality of the boundaries we draw in between inside and outside, letting this tension produce intense exchanges of people, air, light.
This tension becomes more evident in all the buildings that host public programs, that have a public role both in functional and in symbolic terms. These buildings have to establish a strong connection between their interiors and the surrounding spaces and flows, while they have at the same time to regulate the accesses and protect their content.
We often think, when designing buildings that have an important public role – an art center in the center of a city, a civic center for a small community, a school in a village, or a museum on the border between two towns and states – of the renaissance and baroque paintings, where people gather under architectures that have the generosity of a grand gesture, great vaults, sometimes open to the landscape or reduced to ruins. Despite how much these architectures represent an established system of power and values, they nevertheless have an openness that is somehow possible just because it’s a fictional space. A space that doesn’t require to be sealed from wind and rain, to be conditioned, or protected from robbery and riots. They are fictional architectures speaking about their public role in gathering a community under one roof.
Master of the Story of Griselda
In a moment when architecture becomes more and more defensive, public buildings have a greater responsibility in recovering that role, both in symbolic and functional terms, claiming their openness to the public space, and its diverse dwellers.
Four recent projects of ours aim to bring into architecture that same openness, working on the idea of the building as a public roof, a covering of a continuous space that can flow as much as possible at the ground level throughout the building. These buildings in the form of a roof are not a repurposing of the idea of the pilotis, with a generic public space without qualities flowing under a building.
On the contrary, they condense all the programs with more open access and public attractiveness at the ground floor and in proximity of the main accesses to the building – highlighted by gestures that open even more towards specific directions and urban spaces a mass that appears hovering on the ground.
These buildings open themselves to the contexts both in spatial and formal terms, proposing a dialogue with the architectures and landscape that characterize them.
The Art Center in Suncheon is made of four roofs evoking the lightness of the Korean shrines, gathered around a covered public passage, while in Port Gitana the buildings for the Communal Center and the Hotel are a scaled version of the surrounding glazed shingle roofs;
in Bardonnex the new school privileges horizontality to minimize the impact of the building mass on a gently hilled landscape, with a cantilevered wooden roof that covers the main open space of the school establishes a spatial and formal connection with the architectures of the ancient village.
In Gorizia the entrance to the museum becomes a sort of a light tent, opening along the border, evoking the temporary and festive qualities of fairs, circuses and markets that usually take place in the terrain vague in between different territories, but at the same time speaking also with irony to the past of the Austria Felix that once united these territories under one rule…