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general contractor 
surface area
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Study hall at Cascina Nuova cultural center

Municipality of Borgaro Torinese, Italy
- m²

Design approach

The project is set within the framework of the Cascina nuova di Borgaro, aiming to strengthen its role as a civic cultural hub and community gathering center through a carefully designed architectural intervention aligned with clear objectives:

  • Enhancing the historical building's value by juxtaposing it with lightweight and easily readable elements.

  • Reinforcing a characterful space where the community can identify and come together.

  • Ensuring fluidity, accessibility, and intuitive pathways.

  • Creating a welcoming, comfortable, and stimulating environment.

  • Using humble materials that dialogue with the rural context.

  • Maintaining color coherence to achieve a unified intervention.

The intervention presents itself as a unified gesture, synthesizing both its functional and iconic role: while not appearing invasive externally, it establishes a new entrance portal within the existing vestibule that not only provides adequate access to the upper floors but also enhances its relationship with the expansive courtyard where various functions converge. It aims to enhance the role of this public space by limiting vehicular access to loading/unloading operations and emergency vehicles, thus discouraging permanent parking.

The new glass elements maintain the barn-like character with their interplay of solids and voids facing the internal courtyard, while liberating it by highlighting the load-bearing structure on the shorter side of the building, optimizing natural lighting without compromising the coherence of the external facade and roof uniformity. The proposed infills are resolved with transparent or opaque walls set back from existing lines and differentiated by color, in coherence with the intention to emphasize the project's autonomy from the historically valuable complex, albeit with a delicate approach. The use of color in external metal structures is echoed inside the study hall to create a visual continuity that guides the user, aligning with the formal coherence of the design intervention.

Choosing to use humble materials with raw finishes (visible wood fiber acoustic panels, metal mesh, corrugated sheet metal, concrete flooring) not only meets economic feasibility requirements but also embodies a humble approach to integrating with the historical context, maintaining perceptual articulation through diverse textures reminiscent of rural architecture.

An Accessible Entrance, a Recognizable Identity

The redesign of the competition area provides an opportunity to rethink an access point to the entire cultural center through:

  • Creating a portal within the portal, an iconic space for accessing the civic center

  • Enhancing the inner courtyard, a framed public space

  • Addressing the functional distribution and accessibility needs of both sides of the building with a single integrated and coherent element

The metal structure fits within the entrance hall, framing the entrance door like a new portal. Its robustness allows it to accommodate required functions such as elevators, technical rooms, floors, and connecting ramps, redefining the various entrances into a cohesive and highly legible system. Integrated graphics and signage can be reused as stickers within the interior spaces. Elevating the connecting section to a higher level allows it to span over the entrance without overwhelming it, while ramps ensure accessibility on both the study hall and cinema sides. The connecting landing becomes a versatile open room covered and protected by a net, providing additional external space for first-floor functions, potentially furnished as a recreation room with a ping pong table, tables, and informal seating.

The metal mesh cladding provides uniformity and protects against birds. The use of color enhances the intervention's character and offers an excellent opportunity for the graphic and communicative restyling of the civic center.

Study hall: Meeting Point for Experimentation and Personal Growth

Complementary wing of the current library and entire cultural center, the study hall is a space for study, concentration, and interaction, designed in line with contemporary developments in library reading spaces and learning landscapes for learning and training environments.

  • informal space, home-like atmosphere;

  • various modes of study, reading, collaboration;

  • individual spaces | group workspaces, versatile and reconfigurable;

  • attention to acoustic quality: intimate spaces, privacy, reverberation control;

  • emphasis on natural diffused light from the north;

  • leisure areas (game room) and relaxation (soft ramp)

The study hall offers a wide range of furniture types enabling its use in different modes: from the welcoming area equipped with lockers and badge access system, to the connecting ramp with the lower level lounge featuring informal furnishings and relaxation space, to the quieter area dedicated to focused study and concentration. Separated by a glass mobile partition, a section of the space houses round tables for group study, encouraging interaction among users. The foldable tables and stackable chairs can be cleared for open space or arranged in rows for conference, performance, or projection settings. Acoustic treatment ensures a non-reverberant environment, preventing voice escalation and maintaining the necessary quiet for productive work.

Thoughtful design accommodates diverse reading preferences with suitable spaces and varied resources to meet user needs. From secluded areas for individual reading, where readers can concentrate in a relaxed 'lean-back' position (e.g., in armchairs), to spaces for 'lean-forward' engagement—typical for writing, desk-based study, or computer work—organized to facilitate BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) connectivity, ensuring quiet and conducive environments for focused activities.

Environmental, economic, and social sustainability

The project proposes a vision of broad sustainability, where all aspects are considered and balanced, placing the well-being and quality of life of residents at the center:

  • Energy efficiency and resource savings

  • Use of renewable sources where possible

  • Thermal, acoustic, and lighting comfort

  • Use of humble materials with low deterioration and good long-term maintainability

  • Use of customized systems for equipment calibration

Although it is a specific intervention without the potential for a complete redevelopment of the existing building, the project aims to create a self-sufficient, high-performance structure with efficient building envelope and systems. It also focuses on creating a place of well-being for users, emphasizing thermal and acoustic comfort, along with the quality of natural and artificial light and the ability for users to adjust and personalize their environment. This approach avoids unnecessary resource waste, aided by presence sensors for artificial lighting control.

Innovation, technology, and comfort

The proposal emphasizes innovation primarily through innovative spatial design: flexibility and versatility in internal organization place users at the center without imposing rigid behaviors. Technology is employed to enhance comfort in built environments through integrated systems (embedded in the building itself) or user-space interaction systems aimed at customization and differentiation, such as:

  • Custom-designed furnishings equipped with functionalities (storage tables, connectivity at workstations, removable acoustic and hygienic partitions)

  • Individual customizable workstations (dimmable lighting, movable power sockets, soundproof headphones)

  • Various types of informal furnishings to promote reading and dialogue in alternative modes

  • Use of digital badge technology (contactless) for access to spaces and optional functions like coffee machines, reservation of shared technological devices, and training room booking

  • Proposal of shared technological devices like touch-screen digital whiteboards in the training area, tablets, or PCs (depending on available resources)

The space functions as an educational tool ("space as the third educator," as cited by Loris Malaguzzi within his pedagogical vision), serving users who interpret its uses. It is not merely a passive environment but a stimulating one that fosters exchange, learning, research, and discovery.

In this context, technology integrates seamlessly with architecture: sensors, devices, and high-performance materials are not touted as values in themselves but are active components in the design toolkit, serving both the design process and users in the evolution of the environment itself.

The approach spans from the conception of an efficient and high-performance building envelope to the study of natural lighting based on the Average Daylight Factor, and the integration of artificial lighting with a focus on key perceptual factors such as color temperature and color rendering, as well as task lighting evaluation. Dimmable lighting systems are crucial for adapting to individual user needs and specific situations. By integrating simple home automation features with digital badges, each user can be automatically recognized, with their workstation settings pre-configured.

Furthermore, significant attention is given to creating optimal acoustics within the space. It is widely recognized today that acoustic discomfort, stress, and listening fatigue are partly linked to poor sound environment quality. Therefore, the planned acoustic treatments aim to consider "acoustic quality" as a parameter from the initial stages of space design, addressing various possible configurations and drawing from acoustic parameters that objectively influence subjective sound perception in enclosed environments. These parameters include reverberation time, direct sound, early reflections, late reflections, diffusion, sound field uniformity, and speech intelligibility (Speech Transmission Index, STI, the concept underlying speech comprehension evaluation).

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