A building made of colour and light
The architecture of the “Casa Cassiano Tozzoli” Alzheimer’s centre in the northern Italian town of Imola is designed to make life easier for patients, whether day guests or residents of the facility, and to cater for needs associated with different stages of the disease. A knowledge of the therapies and the behaviours of patients makes it possible to formulate spaces based on continuous internal and external pathways and to ensure that the architecture conveys a sense of familiarity.
The building is located within the grounds of the former psychiatric hospital of Imola and is an important part of the urban landscape. The project by architect Patrizia Valla excels for its rationality and clarity. The entrance to the centre is identified by a long projecting roof. The building features a sequence of bright, hi-tech elevations that emphasise the linear geometry of the volumes. Along with a variety of other materials, the building makes extensive use of glazing in order to brighten up and enliven the interiors. The elevations feature an alternation of metal sheet and porcelain tile zones, using ventilated façade technology. Colours, materials and light make the building a powerful presence that is a far cry from the popular image of a hospital while visually underscoring the modernity of a medical centre concept that combines architecture and therapy.
Light is an essential design element in the project. During the day, natural light enters the interiors and models the corridors, making them familiar and recognisable. The colours of the porcelain tiles of the exteriors, the sensitive and delicate beige, sand and grey shades from the De Natura series by Imola Ceramica, convey a sense of hospitality. Inside, the building offers a number of striking features. Natural light floods into the spaces through the full-height glazing, illuminating the orange curved walls of the connecting routes around the courtyards and spilling over onto the neutral colours in the dining area, while the bathroom doors are highlighted by their vivid red colour. With simple directions and easily recognisable spaces free of intrusive signage, the building is more like a large home made up of a sequence of domestic spaces. Its therapeutic role is complemented by an atmosphere of congeniality and familiarity, facilitating perception and orientation on the part of patients. At night, the building is further transformed. The openings in the aluminium sheet areas are closed and the facades are illuminated with projected light of changing colours.
The heart of the scheme is the sequence of simple, easily negotiable itineraries specially designed for patients with a compulsive need for movement. Inside, the bedrooms are connected with the common and dining areas and extend out into the external spaces. The point of arrival on both the ground floor and first floor is the Alzheimer Garden, a space dotted with plants with an easily negotiable paved circular route.