Winner at the Riuso 05 Rigenerazione Urbana Sostenibile. Sezione Architetti.
Quid is certainly a word familiar to Britons and survived in the Italian idiom “un quid in più”, “a little something more”. Quid is a travel journal starting from the intimate and quaint Vicolo Luna – the Moon Alley, an old and delightful spot in the Sicilian town of Favara.
Quid is a brand new and striking meeting place in a long-forlorn neighbourhood of the town which, is quickly turning abandoned ruins into a fresh standpoint on the area and becoming a main hub for all the town’s residents and guests.
It is a contemporary architectural take on old buildings which maintains their original taste, while endowing at the same time a new urban vision for Favara.
Named after its charmingly christened Moon Alley, the Vicolo Luna neighbourhood is an urban quarter on the edge of Favara’s old town – which is a unique web of dammusi, low stone-and-lime buildings directly derived from the Roman domus, of which dammuso is the surviving archaic Sicilian word.
Starting with the WWII aftermath, the town has kept growing chaotically and irrationally, its development marked by a wild extensive-oriented and unplanned expansion model. This has brought to the progressive administrative forsaking and civil abandonment of the old town and its urban, environmental and social collapse; meanwhile, the soul-less and anonymous suburbia has kept spreading randomly down the surrounding slopes, which can take you in less than half an hour to the Valley of the Temples as quickly as to some among the best coastlines of the island.
This project’s target is to toggle on urban and social regeneration dynamics, to the benefit of such complex network of old and new buildings, of public, private and venue spaces: squares, historical streets, alleyways, plazas, courtyards and gardens. It is indeed a manifold interaction between public and private, leading to a remarkable degree of cultural livelihood and to a striking nightlife, such as making Favara stealing the lead from neighbouring Agrigento regional capital and world-wide renowned historical city.
While walking along the narrow, buzzing streets, at any corner you might run into among the most elegant pubs and restaurants you have seen in a while, all the more pleasurable once the local cuisine seems to have a fresh touch on traditional Italian recipe books.
The limits established by several European regulations for new building sites, and in fact the incentive to the remodelling of existing structures, have generated a lively analytical architecture debate, in order to look for alternative urban recycling strategies which as an alternative to the usual, crystallized and static approaches or even wipe-out policies aiming at an outright urban clean slate.
Quite the opposite, stratification, grafting, insertion of new architectural bodies around, through and within the present building structures is proving and seem to be the most appropriate urban growth approaches, that is valid answers to the ongoing densification issues.
Based on such rpemises, the present project intends to apply a selective focus to ancient and ruined house buildings together with all their annex spaces, and to re-address their function to a broad range of social events: from cuisine to AD facilities (Albergo Diffuso, Diffused Hotel), from exploiting the charm of old, quant courtyards and gardens refashioned and tuned to a fresh contemporary feel to making best use of such warm and yet intimate spaces by hosting performance art events as well as resources and investments – A hub for energy to gather around a reborn, innovative and above all shared and community-based urban context.
The multi-faceted nature of this project contributes to an open, participated and constantly evolving, in-progress cultural improvement.
There are two dimensions working in constant interaction and sinergy: preservation works and innovative architectural planning. The outcome is a unique, defined, wholesome and complete architectural standard which introduces and operates on several spatial aspects.
The nature of this project consists in the creative elaboration and multifield application of the old/new contrast on a roughly 1.500 square metres town quarter.
The first phase of the project is going to be the most challenging as far as restructuring works are concerned: works will be carried out for the renovation and re-addressing of a large noble household property with several annex buldings, among which maintenance facilities once used as tool-houses and a garden.
In the following step of the project, additional hosting facilities, currently work-in-progress, will be open to the public.
The building is conveniently located close by to all the main historical sights and along the main avenue of the town, Vittorio Emanuele Boulevard, a main artery running straight through the old town to the outskirts. The building is therefore conveniently placed in a strategic spot of the town and on a prominent cornerside of the block.
Starting from the Sixties, the estate house progressively lost its original architectural vocation as it went through several renovation works which showed poor rationalized compartmentation and concept work. Worn out by time and deserted for ages, the building suffered from structural collapses, the most relevant being the garden-side facade of the main house-building.
Having to comply with strict council reglations concerning the overall building size allowed, close-up, tailored, surgical interventions were carried out, drawing out and integrating with a custom and uncompromising approach. Materials and works were aimed at creating sharp and yet natural shapes blending in a rather blunt, stratified and crystallized background.
The present project has chosen and made sure to preserve as much as possible of the original wall structures, avoiding to disrupt the original lay-out along with the characteristc elements of the building: on the groundfloor, two crossing vaults, the arches and the wooden ceiling and roof XXX; at the first floor, the brand new beams set in their original sloping framework design.
This approach alows to easily highlight, exploit and value the preexisting architectural structure by adding contemporary insertions, unlike an unfortunately still popular conception of leaving everything where it’s always been and the way it’s always been, a sadly common mindset at times to be found in questionable council regulations.
From an architectural point of view, the target is nurturing a plus in each space, by using a minimal language, expressed by a choice of natural materials and neutral grey and white indoor environments, alternating neat and smooth outlines with unlayered, rough cement walls in specific spots.
Special care was taken for the recovery and re-use of original materials, which were removed, classified and reassembled in a modern fashion: the inside doors, for instance, as well as the Carrara marble staircase or the tilework, originally on the floor and now reused as a decoration layer for the indoorwalls.
Materials like resin cement and the natural wooden floor are further main characters of the spaces:particulary iconic of this project is the former, having very similar hues to the surrounding buildings and thus creating a chromatic seamlessness across outdoor and indoor spaces.
The outer walls, white and unpolished, recall the surrounding old neutral plaster layers and fits in the scenery without altering its features and its original characteristics, indeed enhancing their nature. White works as a powerful background to bring out the old renovated stone doorways, and highlighting the bare metal sheet grafts and the mighty, monolithic, somewhat primordial marble bases which outline the windows on the facade.
The facade collapsing allowed actually to rebuild it to a newly-found glory, recalibrated, customized to play in harmony with its background and environment, while vivified by a grand set of windows and, finally, made live by a broad facade balcony over tha garden: the scenery and the connected feelings of belonging do reach out and forth from the background, in the act of creating a new architectural conception.
Elaborazione e traduzione testi: Oliviero Martini.