A location spanning tradition and innovation
Mario Cucinella Architects
The residential care centre for people with disabilities that was opened on 1 June 2019 in the northern Italian town of San Felice sul Panaro is designed to accommodate up to 22 guests with severe disabilities and will serve an area spanning nine municipalities in the northern region of the province of Modena.
The new centre is one of the five projects carried out with the financial backing of the „Nuova Polis“ solidarity trust set up by the chairmen of Confindustria, Confservizi, CGIL, CISL and UIL after a second earthquake struck several municipalities in the Emilia-Romagna region on 30 May 2012.
It is organised on two levels, hosting daytime activities and workshop on the lower floor and guest rooms on the upper floor.
As the building is located in a traditionally agricultural area where a variety of crops are grown, architect Mario Cucinella and his practice drew from the local geography and chose the barn as their archetype for the architectural design. Because barns, along with outhouses for storing tools, vehicles and foodstuffs, were an integral part of agricultural dwellings, this building design will serve as a reassuring presence for the young people who live there.
The building is composed of four individual but interconnected units that form a single internal space while maintaining a clear distinction between the volumes on an external level. The subdivision of the volumes is further accentuated by the slight differences in heights between the volumes and the angle of the roof pitches.
Inside, wood panels are used to create an upward sloping configuration in which the size of the windows increases from bottom to top with a gradual screening function. While the form is based on the genius loci or the „spirit of the place“, the choice of exterior cladding introduces an innovative element without detracting from the use of local materials. The cladding is a continuous shell of ultra-thin porcelain laminate that envelops both the walls and the roof, hiding the gutters and downspouts and maintaining a clean and clearly recognisable form.
The rainscreen cladding consists of porcelain surfaces from the Black-White collection by Cotto d’Este, produced in extremely low thicknesses and large sizes for unparalleled elasticity and strength.
Specifically, 2,300 sq.m from the Kerlite 5plus Ultrawhite range with a Silk finish was used to create a pleasing fabric effect. A further 150 sq.m was chosen for the exterior façade in the Glossy finish, which stands out for its soft look and surprising level of gloss for an absolute white. The panels in both finishes are 100×300 cm in size with a thickness of 5.5 cm.
The main front facing onto Via Garibaldi is a barrier-free space, a public area available for use by the town that facilitates interaction between the young people living in the facility and local residents, while the large windows help to establish a visual relationship between interior and exterior.
The garden is a therapeutic space devoted to open-air multisensorial activities including micro-gardening and the cultivation of aromatic plants. Architect Mario Cucinella commented: „The residential care centre will be a place of new-found happiness for both guests and their families, who face enormous difficulties with extraordinary courage. The architecture was the starting point for this collective journey and proved to be a powerful and above all useful tool. I would like to thank the six engineers and architects who contributed to this project: Arianna Balboni, Mirco Bianchini, Francesco Galli, Valentino Gareri, Federico La Piccirella and Clelia Zappalà. It has given them a unique opportunity for professional growth and to acquire an infectious passion for beauty.“
Inside the structure, Mario Cucinella Architects chose the Blutech collection from Blustyle by Cotto d’Este in a natural Anthracite colour for the floors.