Text description provided by the architects. The Prato Lofts, designed by mdu architetti, deals with the transformation of a warehouse of the second half of XX century located in Prato, Tuscany, in Italy. The building is located in a unique urban tissue of the city of Prato, that was perfectly described by Bernardo Secchi with the word mixitè, that is made of small houses, industrial buildings, open spaces with spontaneous activities of urban agricolture.
The city of Prato is one of the largest industrial district for textile production worldwide. Starting from the eighties of XX century Prato has undergone into a deep transformation of its traditional models of production, like many other eurpean cities. The public debate was concentrated on defining appropriate strategies in order to redefine the relationships between industrial and residential zones. The answer to this debate led to a simplified approach based on the removal of the industrial buildings towards the outskirts of the city and their substitution with residential condominiums.
The Prato Lofts project first of all deals with the dynamics of transformation of the contemporary city, adopting a cultural attitude that promotes the themes of temporal stratification, urban “melting pot”, architecture of the city conceived as accumulation: metamorphosis versus replacement.
The new facade clearly explicits the metamorphosis of the existing building: a wall made of pigmented conctete is clearly pronounced by the presence of a series of vertical cut that lead to small entry courts. Each loft exploits the specific spatial and constructive elements of the existing building, generating informal spaces for life in wich contemporary issues are related to the former industrial past of the building.
The XIII century walls of the city of Prato are the main conceptual reference: a stone defensive wall that it's only apparently impenetrable and that conceals an inner world made of life and dreams. The project for the Prato Lofts, like the defensive walls, hides and protects everyday domestic life and at the same time stimulates multiple relations among the inhabitants and the natural elements. Besides the horizontal enclosure towards the city, on the opposite the interiors are based on a refined vertical openness towards the sky: the skylights, the internal courts, the wide terraces on the upper floor generate open and well-lighted places of living, deeply connected to the variations of the sky.
The house becomes a precious crystal, that is “dirtied” by human life at the same time. The project for the Prato Lofts tries to synthesize the mysterious and fascinating message that architecture, according to Gio Ponti, should transmit: “[...] beautiful like a crystall, but hollowed like a grotto full of stalactites. It's a crystall when it's beautiful, simple, but it has man inside, devil of Cartesio: but it's so human” (Gio Ponti).