Architects: C+S Associati
Location: Florence, Italy
Project Team: Carlo Cappai, Maria Alessandra Segantini
Structures & Plants: Flatengingeneering e Maire Engineering Spa
Client: Immobiliare Novoli Spa
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Courtesy of C+S Associati
The students’ university housing in the former Fiat area at Novoli, Florence, was designed to adapt to the constraints of the brief – the perimeter of the lot, the alignment, the building height – and to use them as a spring¬board for original compositional and typological solutions that have produced a articulated, light-filled interior landscape inside severe walls. Despite the double-courtyard layout the building is far from inward-looking and imposes order on the wider context: the passageway that cuts crosswise through it is seen as a “city gate”, a way through the block and a focus for communal activities, as well as access to the students’ lodgings. The twin themes of “urban silence” and “constructed mass”, borrowed from historical city’s fabric but updated to reflect today’s different formal and plastic awareness, are evident on the solid though not impenetrable exterior facades.
The continuous reinforced concrete base, grey wood shingles and glass-brick fascia are – of course – silent, evenly-coloured, unbroken surfaces but they are also loaded with positive vibes and nuancing ready to be transmitted to the interior. It is here that the building reveals the extent to which the elementary mass visible from the street is in fact a complex structure whose layout, planimetric variations and deviations of section generate a lean-looking though atmospheric interior of raw concrete streaked by form work and in some places deeply gouged. Understanding the building’s functional layout – shops, entrance and refectory on the ground floor; study rooms and services on the upper levels facing the principal street and lodgings (for 250 students) in the other three blocks – explains the layout of the external facades, and indicates how the kinds of materials used are related to the amount of light that reaches the interior. The students’ bedrooms (two types) are the outcome of painstaking typological research – the carefully calculated interlocking of reduced surfaces looks like a modern-day shot at existenzminimum – and successfully reconcile external balcony access with dual exposure towards the street, behind the shingle screen, and the internal courtyards with their coloured walls and quiet gardens.
The halls of residence are typologically hybrid, with balcony access and dual exposure. The standard lodging comprises an entrance hall with a large window opening onto the access balcony, two bedrooms (18 sqm) and two bathrooms; a third bedroom (12 sqm), also with a bathroom, is situated towards the balcony and 80 cm higher to prevent passers-by from looking in. A second standard lodging has a communal area facing the balcony and at the same height, instead of the third bedroom.