by STIRworldMar 09, 2023
Through form and function, can a workplace set reverential dialogue with its natural context, while catering to its own spatial and programmatic requirements and revitalising its discharged site?
Milan-based studio Piuarch collaborated with Fendi Maison to conceive the Fendi Factory, as a discreet yet cogent contemporary architecture "that disappears into the landscape, placing itself in open dialogue with the surrounding nature." According to the Italian architects and Fendi's Architecture Department, the low-profile building resting amid the rolling hills of Bagno a Ripoli in Florence, Italy, is made distinct with its raised garden which essays dual functions—that of “mending a long-standing rift in the terrain and recreating the hillside of the site in which it is located.” The complex and the single-storey structure includes management and administrative offices, a restaurant, a production warehouse, workshops and a school for haute leather goods, "with the intent of fully expressing the luxury brand's exceptional quality and high standards."
Modest yet visually striking, the new complex of the fashion brand's production building bases itself on 'practicality,' spread across 14,000 sqm in the Tuscan countryside, and accompanied by a 'high standard' of landscape design and advanced energy efficiency, as "the brainchild of the Maison that seeks to combine the excellence of its product with the creation of an architectural landmark having significant aesthetic and environmental value,” the collaborators inform. Piuarch sought to interpret this concept in this contextual architecture, which becomes an essential fragment of its natural and urban surroundings, "rather than a mere graft."
The Fendi Factory is developed on a single level, its intended horizontality creating a “free form driven by the needs of the production process,” the Milan-based studio says. The spaces' practicality essays the conceptual principle of the site plan, integrating varied functions and programs into fluid pathways that run horizontally through the contemporary design. Transparent walls inside become the backbone of the circulatory and connecting spaces, visually uniting and enhancing the building’s different uses in tandem with encouraging users and visitors to move around, socialise with each other and engage with the building’s spatiality.
The idea was to reconstruct a natural landscape through architecture that disappears within the landscape itself. When an architectural project also includes a landscape project, the symbiosis with the environment develops naturally. – Gino Garbellini, co-founder and partner, Piuarch
Piuarch outlined the concept of the office design, defined in its initial phases with landscape architect Antonio Perazzi, with an aim to elucidate conditions for a renewed visual collaboration between the architecture and the environment. "The characteristics of the site, impacted by the logic of relying on the brick industry and the quarry once functioning on the lot, required restoration work and prompted the idea of interpreting the construction of the production complex as an opportunity to establish positive land management dynamics,” shares the architecture and urban planning firm founded in Milan in 1996 by Francesco Fresa, Germán Fuenmayor, Gino Garbellini, and Monica Tricario.
According to Gino Garbellini, co-founder and partner, Piuarch, the project was selected as part of a competition by invitation organised in 2017, which was followed by the commissioning of the design up to the executive phase. “Piuarch was chosen by Fendi because (our) firm's proposal was the one that best interpreted the Maison's request to create an architecture of great aesthetic and environmental value that would express the excellence of Fendi products," he said. The fashion house conveyed a brief to design a 'new Hub of Excellence,' "designed to accommodate and enhance the work of artisans and professionals. Therefore, our first step and priority was to understand the functioning of each production activity, studying the flow and routes that would make them efficient while augmenting workflow, while moving towards a goal of designing an efficient functional distribution with the complex," Garbellini continues.
The ensuing design approach, as relayed by Garbellini, is based on the idea of the contextual design finding its 'ideal form' through the best functional arrangement of all its parts. Piuarch then considered the magnanimous surrounding context, of respecting the landscape which the built intervention calls home. “So the idea of organising the workspaces only on one floor, the ground level, at the height of the existing factory was born, with the basement housing the parking lots and the cafeteria on the first. The flow of the personnel routes and goods flow horizontally, and the required functions, with their size and shape, drew the plan of the building,” Garbellini clarifies.
The building as an extended garden
The office architecture, thus, drew from its site’s built history and manages to strike an ‘open dialogue’ with its natural surroundings. “It was the landscape that suggested the form and language of the project. The desire was to fill and restore, through our intervention, the hilly environment previously emptied by the clay quarry and kiln. The result is therefore a workplace marked by efficiency and functionality, but always in relation and open dialogue with the surrounding nature: the building, apparently hypogeal thanks to the landscaping choice of creating a continuous and intensive green roof, becomes an integrated ecological system that reconstructs and recreates the morphology and contours of the land to restore the shape of the original hillside. The vast roof garden serves both an environmental function and a social and community-led one, becoming a user-friendly space and a landmark venue for employees to socialise,” observes Garbellini.
With each commission, Piuarch pursues the most exciting challenge in architecture: to improve the city, the lives of its inhabitants and the conditions for living together, while respecting the diversity of each individual. “It is an approach addressing certain fundamental aspects: comfort and constructiveness, well-being and sustainability. Hence, architecture becomes a meaningful setting, a new environment that transcends the functional space, a place where people and landscapes relate,” explains the design team.
The green roof that helps transcend the linear building into a hallmark, is given relief in the form of hollowed-out patios, disrupting its own monotonous continuity and channeling natural light into its sparse yet cosy interior design. This intentional feature is what injects vitality and identity to the single storey structure, counterbalancing with its context and performing roles of enhancing natural ventilation and an influx of daylight.
Commenting on the material and colour palette, Garbellini said—"the use of materials evoke the colours of the location, while the transparent external and internal walls, all ensure a visual and physical, almost osmotic exchange between the artificial and natural environments, between the interior and exterior." The building’s skin employ a natural mix of earth and cement, accompanied by glass, reflecting the nuanced colour shades of the Tuscan hills, allowing Fendi's new headquarters to synchronise with its surroundings. the building's outer walls use a natural mix of earth and cement, along with glass, in a characteristic shade that reflects the colour nuances of the Tuscan hills. The interior features terracotta cladding, designed by Fendi, which recalls the material of the existing kiln.
From its green roof to the extensive courtyard designs, its minimal interiors and the industrial park surrounding the Italian architecture rests on the idea to transform the entire site into 'a new and extended garden,' improving the quality of the working spaces, “to reinforce the priority of the client's work: a commitment to increasing responsibility towards the environment and society,” says Garbellini.
The Fendi Factory designed by Piuarch also addresses issues of creating a significant architectural landmark with a unique yet muted aesthetic, a building that imbibes respecting and valuing the environment; conceiving a sustainable and caring workspace; regenerating a dismissed site; or striking a visually appealing connection between the built and the natural landscape while tackling an efficient functional distribution of spaces throughout the complex.
Name: Fendi Factory
Location: Bagno a Ripoli, Florence, Italy
Area: 14,000 sqm
Year of completion: 2022
Architect and Interior Designer: Piuarch
Design team: Francesco Fresa, Germán Fuenmayor, Gino Garbellini, Monica Tricario with Antonio Perazzi