Although the city is seen as a place of meetings and exchanges, many urban centers have become over-saturated with cars and car parks. This phenomenon has created a series of “non-places” that have claimed “common areas” from city dwellers. Occupying a space no larger than a typical parking spot, the Architettura Dolomiti Pavilion reflects on David Chipperfield’s “Common Ground” theme and explores ways on how to exploit these common areas currently occupied by parking places. This wooden pavilion reinterprets and reintroduces the “larin” – a traditional space found in the rural houses of Belluno where the family meets to eat, drink and share stories – in an effort to create an intimate space within the city that offers an escape and an opportunity for interaction amongst city dwellers. With this pavilion, Dolomiti Architetture explores the possibilities of “a new life free from cars” within the city center that also reflects their values of environmental sustainability by using disassemblability techniques, recycling methods and renewable raw materials.
The Architecture Dolomiti Pavilion is currently being occupied by the city dwellers of Belluno, Italy. Continue reading for the architects’ description.
The idea of this project has arisen from the subject of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, directed by David Chipperfield, common ground, which can be interpreted in several ways. If on the one hand “common ground” is the basis of technical and non-technical knowledge of the collaborators an architect uses, on the other hand it must be interpreted literally as the common ground of cities where architecture must give a strong contribution to the “definition of the urban context where a community lives”. This is why the spaces of the city are those where architecture can express its social contents at best and it can “face common worries, influences and intentions”.
Our idea to create Architettura Dolomiti Pavilion has arisen from Chipperfield’s reflections. Five designers have met to talk about architecture, understand which are the problems of a city, give an interpretation of mountain architecture, choose a subject to improve urban spaces: this is what stands at the basis of our work. At every meeting the project has taken shape and has evolved, and also the multidisciplinary network of collaborators Chipperfield refers to has started to evolve and widen, it is a network of knowledge which is necessary to materially build the pavilion.
A place in the sun
The city is the place of meetings and exchanges, the human component is part of the essence of this place, it is the public place par excellence. Nonetheless, some city centres are increasingly saturated with cars and car parks, which are actually non-places, representing public areas, common ground taken from the vital functions of the city also in areas which should be preserved for the improvement of public decorum: sunny areas, old city centres, etc.
Our reflection on the urban common ground is based on a small size space: 2.5×5 metres is the standard size of a parking space, and this is the minimum space which can be given back to the city and its dwellers. The pavilion we present is just one of the many possibilities offered by such a space and it aims at showing how few square metres are enough to build a space which can be enjoyed by all citizens. But it is also our common ground for the reflections you can find below.
The disenchanted mountain
The choice of the subject is not random, it is not a banal aesthetic exercise. The space to be given back to the city must be lived, and the choice of shapes is linked to meeting places typical of the building culture of the Dolomites. Under this point of view, the pavilion is a reinterpretation and a reintroduction into the urban area of the “larin” a typical place of rural houses in Belluno area where the family met to discuss, have a meal, tell stories and chat. The invitation offered by the pavilion is therefore clear: people regain possession of a space which used to be forbidden and turn it into a meeting place.
At the same time the pavilion is also a more “intimate” space, with seats which are a reinterpretation of Le Corbusier’s chaise lounge, made with one of the oldest building material: wood. Their sinuous shapes reminds of the mountains profile, and they are an invitation to sit down, forget everyday’s chaos and stop to think for a moment. On the whole, the pavilion is an architectural experience.
Also the outside of the pavilion is linked to the mountains, and its pitches remind of the profile of Dolomites peaks. The choice of wood as building material is due to various factors: its link to local building tradition, its high presence on Belluno territory as well as its potential in the environmental sustainability of the mountain building industry. The building system is simple and cheap: the pavilion can be built with the work of few people.
Architettura Dolomiti Pavilion is not the reconstruction of an alpine architecture in the city, it is not a revival of the stereotypes of mountain buildings: often high peaks, green meadows and typical huts turn mountain architecture into a bucolic, postcard-like place, a place where modernity may look like a foreign element which jeopardizes an unchanging balance. The pavilion aims at being a reflection on these elements and on how they can get rid of a set label and become un-common places, still keeping a link with the territory where they are and with the time and technology of the period they are built in.
The pavilion is a reflection on mountain architecture and on how it is interpreted by designers and clients, but also by those who go to the mountains for passion and by those who live there. It is also, and above all, an architecture belonging to a specific urban context, “it is not an isolated event” and it poses questions on the improvement of the city: how can common areas occupied by parking places be exploited? How can they have a new life free from cars which have taken over the city centre with determination? It is a stimulus for everybody, it is a rest, a break in the frantic everyday life to stop and think.
The tree in the city
The project follows the principles of environmental sustainability such as disassemblability, recycling, and the use of renewable raw materials.
Since 1850 forest coverage in the Alps has grown by 30%, and in the province of Belluno alone it gets up to 50% of the whole territory. Despite the large quantity of wood at our disposal, Alpine forests are currently underused compared to their potential. Over the years buying round wood from northern Europe and Russia has been preferred to the starting up of a serious national forestry programme. The cost of transportation and the possible creation of local added value in the sector question this approach and encourage a new attention to local resources.
Besides permitting a considerable decrease in work execution times, scrap and yard waste, the choice of wood as building material makes it possible to close the cycle with neutral CO2 balance. It must be noted that there is an increasing attention in the sector of wood as building material with a preference for small and medium size semi-finished products, because mainly young plants are used since they grow faster and this increases the yield of a forestry plant. Unfortunately, this has gone hand in hand with the development of lamellar wood which, even if it gives excellent results of mechanical resistance, uses a lot of artificial glues such as formaldehyde, which turn lamellar wood into a special waste and excludes the possibility of using it as combustible material.
Our project proposes the return to dry assembling systems of medium size elements (5 cm think boards), drawing inspiration from the past experiences of Frei Otto, Swiss bridges and Helsinki Wood Program. This kind of building system shows good mechanical resistance capacities, it is easy to realize and, even more important, elements which are damaged by passing time can be replaced.
Architects: Dolomiti Architetture
Location: Belluno, Italy
Project Team: Massimiliano Dell’Olivo, Anna De Salvador, Simone Osta, Sabrina Pasquali, Fabian Testor
Project Year: 2012
Photography: Sergio Casagrande
Structures: Daniele Tissi
Lighting: Patrick Ganz
Antifire: Alessandro Aggio
Graphics: Gabriele Riva
Video: Maximiliaan Tropea
Translations: Laura Rossa
Technical partners: Arredamenti Centeleghe, Mavima, Segheria Casera Corrado, Rothoblaas, Cuprum elettromeccanica, Luceteam, Colorificio Paulin, Polypiù, Cassa Rurale Val di Fassa e Agordino, Valpiave Assicuratrice, Facchin srl, SICI srl, Edilferro, Da Rold Giuseppe Imbiancature edili, Edilcommercio, Amonn, Italcarta, Marmi Tolotti