A company showcase
Massimo De Gennaro
Along with their websites, the best calling card for today’s companies is their physical headquarters, which serves as a venue for meetings, visits and dialogue as well as a place of work and business. After a long period of anonymity, there is a growing architectural trend towards industrial buildings with a clear identity. This approach is particularly effective in the case of companies operating in the construction sector, where the buildings can be used to showcase special processes and high-performance materials.
This was the principle adhered to by the company Lasa Metalli, founded in 1961, when it decided to build a new branch in a manufacturing area of Modena. The company’s stated aim was « to build a showcase capable of promoting products (aluminium door and window frames, interior walls, sheet metal, fencing, etc.) while at the same time creating a bright, open-plan environment free from walls and architectural constraints that would serve as a more comfortable and relaxing workplace for employees ». Architect Massimo De Gennaro based his work on this concept in an attempt to give the building a specific aesthetic personality in marked contrast to the all too frequent anonymity of contemporary industrial suburbs.
For the long, intricate building running parallel to the road and the factory, the challenge was to exploit the speed and efficiency of a prefabricated system while giving the building the appearance of a structure built in-situ. The ground floor, which serves to integrate the building into the surrounding urban context and contains offices, a showroom and a meeting room, is set back and punctuated by columns, partly arcaded and partly panelled with lightweight materials. The project aimed to permit a high degree of transversal permeability between the road and the rear gardens, which also offer a pleasant view from the offices on that side of the building. The upper floor stands out for its harmonious fenestration. The architect explained: « When designing the main façade I imagined I was composing a series of notes on a musical stave… this was a way of punctuating the massing of the façade with a series of deep non-aligned openings composed in a cadence that would avoid the anonymity of prefabricated facades. »
The building was entirely constructed using a prefabricated structural system in which the only exposed reinforced concrete works are the lift shafts connecting the two floors. Inside the building special attention was devoted to the functional and spatial distribution of the various rooms, delimited by a series of full-height glass walls with a polished aluminium structure accommodating the wooden doors. For the floor covering the architect chose to use a single uniform surface that would emphasise the sense of continuity between the various spaces and between the interior and exterior, opting for a single large-format concrete-effect porcelain floor tile. This warm colour harmonises effectively with the white and glazed surfaces, making them more hospitable and welcoming.
The lighting system has also been designed and built with special care to ensure the maximum integration with the functional and aesthetic aspects of the entire construction. Rows of spotlights mark out routes while hanging luminaires grace the corridors and the meeting rooms.
At night, the ground floor becomes a luminous base surmounted by the more compact, sculptural upper block.