University Of Palermo Science Departments

(Palermo. Italy) 1969-88

(Left) General plan of Oregottl's complex I« the scionco dopartmonts of the UnhrsrsHyof Palermo

(Above) Aerial view of the buildings

Uke many of the buildings of the cntxai regionalists in Spain, the complex of Oregon's University of Palermo stands in a historical town. However, the difference in attitude to location could hardly be greater between then and him. Whereas the critical regionalists see« to reflect the memory of a place in the* projects. Gregotti's buildings make not the slightest concession to it.

The new science departments of the llnr»«-sity of Palermo (chemistry, phystcs. biotoflr mathematics and geology) is not only Gregor ti's largest project, but one of the greatest i Italy in the last twenty years. For better or worse, the rejection of contextualism has yielded a functional megastructure the* almost approaches in scale the Aachen Hosfr tal Complex by Weber & Brandt (pp. 168-71' although entirely different in terms of its street allocation system and its treatment of strut ture and servicing.

The complex of Gregotti's science depart ments is arranged on the axis of the prese« Viale delle Scienze and laid out around a setcf three elongated pedestrian precincts on ditfr ent levels, with all the science departmerts

Above) Site soction and elevations Right) Detailed plan of a unit abutting onto them and the collective services for the student residences aligned along tnose. Each department consists of two connected blocks, one essentially intended for teaching preliminary courses and the other for advanced courses and research. Each of these blocks has two floors and a basement level for parking and services. The basic module for both construction and installations of each Mock is 7.20 metres square. In addition to its research block, the physics department has a workshop located along the axis of the research block. The vertical bearing elements are composed of a prefabricated double pillar (with an interaxis of 7.20 metres both ways) *hich will permit the vertical passage of the conduits and utilities - electric power lines, compressed air. gas. water pipes, distilled water supply, ventilation shafts, etc. These can then run horizontally, and open to inspection, under the prefabricated ceilings, which are so shaped as to permit the continuous horizontal arrangement of the conduits in both directions. This is the first earthquake-proof prefabricated and precompressed structure of any importance to be put up in Italy.

(Abovo) Isometric section showing the construction

The Kalian architectural historian and critic Manfredo Tafuri has pointed out that Gregotti's architecture is the outcome of the reaction of his generation to the 'neo-realists' of the 1950s and 1960s. They were, predominantly. Ernesto Rogers. Lodovico Quaroni and Mario Ridolfi. The most prominent was Ernesto Rogers, the architect of. among others, the Torre Velasca in Milan: he was also editor of the influential architectural review Casabclla Continuitá. Rogers was particularly concerned with the relation between modern architecture and the historical and regional fabric of its context. He supported an architecture which stood for the physiognomic and the specific and which avoided abstraction and adherence to general systems.

At the opposite end of the scale. Gregotti, a designer, and currently editor of Casabella.

has taken sides in the European debate about such issues against the emphasis on architectural 'memory'. In his book. II territorio dell' architettura (1965), he dismisses what he disparagingly refers to as 'neo-Proustean' attitudes. He argues, instead, for a highly abstract ideal of 'modernity' which is opposed to mimesis and memory. As is evident, on the other hand, in the University of Palermo, he is equally against an ad hoc. chaotic accumulation of spaces. In a manner, later followed by Paul Chemetov (see pp. 244-45). his project departs from a rigid minimalism or geometrical orthogonality - which slowly fills in with equally elementary, rigidly geometrical components. The result, in Gregotti's case, is measured and guarantees that it never falls short of a minimum quality of usage.

(Abovo) Isometric section showing the construction

(Above left) Dotell of the facade

Architekt Dipl. Ing. Klaus Kada GLASMUSEUM

(Bârnbach, Austria) 1988

This design was the winning entry in a competition for an exhibition building on the theme of glass and coal on the site of the 1950s Bârnbach glass works. The building was then converted into a permanent glass museum and cultural centre. The use of glass as the most significant material for the building made the structure at once an 'exhibit and part of the display". Klaus Kada has stated.

What strikes the viewer is a sense of movement implicit in the design of the Glas-museum. There is one's own movement as one is drawn Into the structure, presented with prospects and retrospects', and offered multiple vistas of all aspects of the building and its surroundings in a 'conquest of flatness'. There is also the implicit movement of the parts which make up the structure, as if they had all been arrested in the process of being taken apart. Another sense of movement comes from the light: the way it is caught by the intersecting surfaces as it penetrates the loosely defined volumes of the building through their wide-open seams.

What holds the building together and makes possible all such implicit interpénétrations, while explicitly the volume is sealed, is glass. But the building is also held together as a composition. There is rigour in its formal spatial organization despite its apparent lack. The design is anchored onto a steel skeleton, a remnant and testimony of the old factory, which Kada views as a welcome accident, an architectural objet trouvé. The composition unfolds spirally, reaching out to the limits of the site and acknowledging the major axis of the town. The wall of hand-made glass tiles, carried by a filigree structure, runs parallel to the railway and the river.

In similar terms. Kada sees basic compo nents of the composition as shaped by urban determinants. He writes, 'a glass stele . . . creates the pivot to the street frontage, along the second town-development line. On this line, the closure of the hall Is formed by a pure, self-supporting glass construction, which at the same time dissolves the materiality of this boundary: urban space penetrates a house and can be experienced from outside. A solid wall follows, as the faceted outline of the gridlike front of the "shelving" in spatial distance -a stratum which has moved into the space by detaching itself from the steel-concrete framework."

There is also a deeper logic which informs the building. It derives from the systematic breaking of one of the most fundamental structuring devices of classical architecture, what Vitruvius. following ancient Greek writings. referred to as taxis, the well-formed division of space into parts. Most often, this spatial rule system used an orthogonal grid as a basis for locating all architectural elements. It also prescribed that buildings and their parts must have clearly circumscribed limits and a perceptible beginning, middle and end. All that is carefully violated in Klaus Kada's Glasmu-seum. In its place we have the jagged outline of the plan, dissolved boundaries, a faceted front of the building, an uneven succession of 'floating' roofs of galvanized tin.

In this elaborate exercise In anti-classicism, the role of glass, as a necessary condition for it. is central. But glass, ultimately, is only the means towards an end. Kada's architecture, like that of a large number of his Austrian colleagues. Gùnther Domenig. Michael Szysz-kowitz and Karla Kowalski. Coop Himmelblau, Gustav Peichl. seems obsessed with the will to represent the unfolding of time through space.

(Left) Axonometrie drawing of the Glasmuseum

(Opposlto) Detail of the roof seen from ln»M« the building

(Opposite, bottom row. left to right) The exterior; detail of the facade; the entran««

Hans Kollhoff

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