AZPA to Transform Nineteenth Century Building into Locarno Film Festival Headquarters

Courtesy of AZPA

London and Barcelona-based practice AZPA (Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architecture) has been announced as winner of an international competition aimed to establish a permanent residence for the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. Breaking away from the starchitect notion of public architecture needing to make an “extravagant gesture”, AZPA’s innovative proposal partakes in an act of “urban recycling” by reusing the pre-existent, nineteenth century structure of Piazza Castello and transforming its interior courtyard into three sizable theaters. Additionally, a complimentary renovation will take place on the surrounding Piazza Remo Rossi, which will be repaved with red natural stone that essentially provides a “permanent red carpet” qualified to host an array of festival related events.

As Architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo describes: "I do not want to redraw the city, but keep the city." 

AZPA’s winning design not only preserves and capitalizes on the existing integrity of the city, but the strategies employed makes this an economically viable solution. With an estimated price tag of 28 million Swiss Francs, this renovation is said to be no more than the cost of a complete demolition. 

More on AZPA’s winning proposal after the break.

Courtesy of AZPA

AZPA describes: “When conceiving our proposal for the Palazzo del Cinema di Locarno, we tried to avoid the dominant trend, prevalent during the last few decades, that public architecture needs to make extravagant gestures in order to curate our cities’ public realm. In the aftermath of the 2007 global financial crisis, rampant global warming, and perhaps the demise of “starchitecture” as a default procedure to build urban identity, our proposal is guided by principles of economy and the attempt to capitalize on the existing structure and the public affection for the Palazzo Scolastico - which was used to host the local schools and now hosts a variety of NGOs and community associations - to provide an architectural identity for the new cinema complex in Piazza Remo Rossi.”

Courtesy of AZPA

A strategy of urban recycling, consolidation and rebranding of the public identity are the major forces behind the future Locarno International Film Festival headquarters.

The three theaters - one 550-seat and two 150-seat theaters - will be hosted in the center of the newly renovated structure, while in the two wings of the building will provide for offices and the independent venture of Centre Cantonal visual skills (CCCA). 

Courtesy of AZPA

From the outside, the most noticeable change will be represented by the attic window with a multipurpose hall of 600 square meters. However, in order to fit the entire program into the existing footprint, the structure was raised an entire floor above the cornice of the old building thus exhausting the building regulation’s maximum volume. The protrusion is treated as a simple and abstract volume that “overflows the old container”. By referring to the colors and textures associated with branding of the Festival, AZPA clad the extension in perforated gold panels - for the Pardo d'Oro - that could filter natural light into the top levels of the build and act as a “lantern presiding over Locarnos’s night sky”.

Courtesy of AZPA

All measures will ensure maximum energy efficiency and flexibility for longevity. Rainwater harvesting will be used for toilets, the landscape, and cleaning, while energy efficient bathroom fittings will be activated by photocells.

Work is expected to commence this year with completion scheduled in 2015. 

Architects: AZPA (Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architecture)

Location: Locarno, Switzerland

Client: Locarno City Council and Stella Chiara Foundation

AZPA Team: Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Maider Llaguno, Robert Berenguer, Manuel Eijo, Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal, Ravi Lopes Calamita

Local Partner: Dario Franchini
Area: 6500m2 building + 2000 m2 public realm
Cost: 27,5M €

Competition: 2012

Projected Completion: 2015

via AZPA,

Image gallery

See allShow less
About this author
Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "AZPA to Transform Nineteenth Century Building into Locarno Film Festival Headquarters" 23 Jan 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.