In the dream factory
Parretti Vanni & Validoro Srl
The desire to combine tradition and modernity is not always a sign of inconsistency. In reality, technology is capable of transforming typically pre-industrial materials into extraordinarily innovative solutions through skilful use of timeless materials such as travertine in a highly contemporary context. This strategy has paid off for example in the floor covering of the Multiplex Cinema in Prato, which uses the Travertino Romano Al Verso collection from Ceramiche Coem.
Described by Marc Augé as non-places due to their congenital lack of identity and cultural context, shopping malls are currently undergoing profound transformation. Initially conceived as simple, unambitious structures, amorphous containers constructed with a focus on economy, these architectural “ugly ducklings” have grown into graceful swans well aware of their role as major attractions. As a result, they have acquired precise typological characteristics that set an example for the architecture of the future, key elements for the evolution of the urban landscape. In short, shopping centres are increasingly becoming spaces capable of transforming a marketplace into a cultural occasion. One of the most striking examples of this is the increasingly widespread strategy of combining shopping centres with multiplex cinemas, creating entertainment facilities that offer an alternative to town-centre movie theatres, which – unlike the large complexes in metropolitan areas – sometimes lack sufficient space to house adequately sized screens for extra large movie formats. With its distinctive shapes and its fluid, aerodynamic volumes like those of a spaceship blasting off into outer space, the complex in Prato is a strongly contemporary structure conceived as a dream factory, offering a journey through a cinematic space where dreams become reality, at least for a short span of time in the dark of the movie theatre. The new complex in Prato consists of a shopping centre and a multiplex cinema. The design objectives give special emphasis to strategies for maximising energy savings and energy production from renewable sources, leading to a significant saving of resources and a consequent reduction in operating costs. This attention to the environment is part of an ethical building approach that can be put off no longer (Travertino Romano meets LEED® requirements for recycled material content and provides maximum thermal insulation). It has also paved the way for a new aesthetic that reflects contemporary architecture’s awareness of its role as a dominant presence in an area that is close to collapse due to the excessive invasiveness of the built fabric.
Consisting of two buildings, the complex is divided into two large partitions organised around a central courtyard. The volumes have large south-facing glass surfaces. The presence of the ventilated roof, made of glass and incorporating a significant overhang, provides effective shading from strong sunlight during the summer months, thereby limiting the need for air conditioning.