Eating out at the market
One interesting fact about Florence that perhaps not everyone knows it that one of its modern-day symbols, the Mercato Centrale or Mercato di San Lorenzo, was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni, the very same architect who created Florence’s Sant’Ambrogio market and the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. To celebrate its 140th anniversary, this iron and glass structure built back in 1874 was treated to a major facelift. The newly renovated Mercato Centrale not only restores life to a space that had stood empty for many years, but according to the architects, „gives concrete form to an essential contemporary vision, repopulating a vitally important area of the centre of Florence with traditional shops that give food artisans back their rightfully important role“. The original idea was conceived by Umberto Montano, a well-known catering sector entrepreneur who wanted to restore one of the most significant locations in the city, the first floor of the San Lorenzo covered market.
The redevelopment project was awarded to the Florence-based practice Archea Associati, also known for projects such as the Antinori winery in the Chianti Classico wine-growing area.
„The aim of the project was to create a new covered urban space while at the same time providing the city centre with a new and contemporary meeting place,“ the architects explained. „No radical work was needed to meet regulatory and technical requirements as the previous renovation project carried out in 2008 had left an empty, usable space on the first floor of the Central Market.“ What the space did lack however was the appeal, warmth and sense of hospitality that is so characteristic of the city’s squares. To address this, surface coverings with geometric patterns and floral relief decorations were used to create a freshly restored artisanal atmosphere. The Déco Perlage ceramic tile collection from Tagina Ceramiche D’Arte was chosen to help preserve the market’s original appearance and transform it into an authentic theatre of taste‘. The Hard Rock Beton collection, also from Tagina, was chosen as the floor covering.
„The first floor architecture project aims to redevelop one of the most splendid historic markets in Italy while introducing modern functions capable of meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse and cultured public,“ continued the architects.
„This entailed far more than just interior design work. To create this urban-scale work of covered architecture, we sought to enhance the lightness and brightness of the splendid nineteenth century steel and iron structural work through the use of simple and natural materials (wood, mats, ropes, terracotta, pigmented cement) and flexible furnishings, as well as a series of large wicker and rattan lamps that discreetly fill the enormous volume of the market.
„The overall architectural project emphasises the craft tradition of the shops, which are arranged in an orderly sequence reminiscent of a street or a square, while the open-plan layout ensures full visibility of the food preparation areas and enables the public to watch the food artisans as they work.
„All the shop spaces, whether for food preparation or for sale and consumption, as well as the service areas, are designed to project a unified, joyful marketplace image.“
The initiative has already achieved one of its goals, forging prestigious partnerships instead of rivalry or envy. One example? That of Eataly…