16.9.2014

Palazzo Grossi in Perugia, Italy

Conversion of a former school building to the head office of Perugia's municipal administration.

The building from the early fifties is situated in the middle of the historical city centre of Perugia and used to host a school. The primary objective of its conversion into the head office of the city’s municipal administration was to meet the many requirements that the new use would involve without twisting neither the building’s original typological structure, nor its rooted image in the collective memory. A series of strategic operations characterize the project: the improvement of the external facades (renovated and in the most damaged parts restored), the extension with externally low visual impact (a new high-tech volume, planted inside the existing inner courtyard), the reorganization of the entrances (indicated with panels in cor-ten), the adoption of bioclimatic systems (based on the integration of a curtain wall with a basin filled with water and coloured glass fragments), and the use of symbolism (consisting of a number of art works spread around the building).

But what most characterizes the new head office of the city’s municipal administration is its double nature (rooted in the tradition on the outside and outstretched towards the future on the inside), which intends to celebrate the balance between tradition and innovation that always has distinguished Perugia. It’s not by chance that the graphic decoration of the large glass wall in the entrance gallery, consisting of characters from the Etruscan alphabet and citations from the “cippo perugino” and the segreant griffin, consisting of 224 bars in galvanized steel and 2072 small spheres in red ceramic, express that the roots of the Perugian civil community, although they are ancient, are perfectly vital.

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The building’s original courtyard type was conserved as, in addition of representing a precious historical heritage, it guarantees good working environment allowing direct ventilation and illumination. The inner courtyard was reduced in size to give place for the new inserted volume and divided into two levels: a large entrance atrium on ground level (in continuity with the external public spaces) and a green roof on the first level (a “secret” garden creating a pleasant environment). The functions that have most direct contact with the public are placed on the ground level while the other functions are distributed on the different levels. Vertical communication is concentrated into one primary block (placed in the south wing and equipped with a staircase and two elevators) and two secondary blocks (consisting of two pre-existing staircases) in the north wing.

The project takes advantage of the existing natural resources instead of abusing artificial clime control technologies, although it still satisfies different standards for energy consumption limitations. Inside the courtyard the new volume is covered with a curtain wall that, together with a basin filled with water and coloured glass fragments, and the green roof, form a combined system for bioclimatic control with the purpose of optimising the well-being inside the building at low energy consumption. The system is capable of improving the air quality (by reducing particulate matter) and to contribute to the cooling of the building during the summer (amplified by the evaporation effect of the basin).

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