Nostalgia for the future
The headquarters of Cabel Industry, a service company for banks and public authorities, is located in the province of Empoli, in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. The building consists of two above-ground floors and a basement and appears to have been hollowed out of the ground. Access to the interior is via suspended walkways above a large green courtyard which allows light to penetrate as far as the basement floor and creates a void below the zero level. This highly dramatic feature is particularly evident at night, when the area is transformed into a pool of light that seems to lift the building from the ground, making it almost seem to be floating in the darkness.
Created by architect Massimo Mariani, this horizontal building is situated in a small industrial area and stands out for its innovative, futuristic design. Added to this is the successful use of coloured glass elements that generate shades of colour in spaces dominated by black and white, while at night the colour is projected outwards, highlighting the voids, windows and curved shapes.
The building is constructed from precast concrete elements with grey aluminium cladding on the end sections and the roof, where a system of panels is installed. As mentioned, access to the interior is via three concrete walkways. The basement floor houses a print works and exhibition spaces; the ground floor consists of a large open space and isolated work stations; the first floor hosts office and representation spaces interspersed with a small internal patio and a terrace.
The dramatic layout of the spaces, the repetition of the design cues of the entire project, which at times achieves the dignity of an artwork, the personality of the furnishings – including historic pieces by Zanuso, Sottsass, Pesce and Saarinen – are accentuated by the homogenous, soft and minimalist floor covering, consisting of 60×60 cm porcelain tiles from the Area collection by Floor Gres, chosen in the Soft version and colour Avio.
The bathroom walls stand out for their use of bright colours, dominated by 2×2 cm semitransparent glass mosaic from the Vitreo collection from Trend.
As a whole, the Cabel headquarters is a splendid example of the powerful, creative role that corporate buildings can play within the contemporary landscape, establishing a dialectic relationship with the local manufacturing fabric and the natural surroundings. This quality is further underscored by the fact that the project is now exhibited at the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, devoted by curator Luca Zevi to the research programme pursued by Italian architecture through relationships between culture, economics and land use.