Student Halls of Residence in Chieti
With regard to the entire area set aside for the university district in Chieti, the plot chosen for the construction of the new student halls of residence occupies the lower slopes of the hills, positioned at the edge of a relatively recent built-up area. As a whole, this zone is characterized by production sites of different kinds and sizes, alternating with equally diverse residential structures. This choice of location for the new university site, therefore, entails a series of significant problems, particularly as regards the role that public intervention can play in terms of the specific conditions of the surrounding area. In this sense, there are two alternative options.
Either the new intervention can be completely self-contained, indifferent to its surroundings, forcedly doing away (so to speak) with certain key technical and functional issues and therefore adding to problems such as road traffic and becoming a burden on the surrounding area; or, in keeping with its specific nature as a clearly identified community, the new site can become an integral part of the surrounding area, acting as a service structure for the nearby settlement too as far as possible. On the basis of this latter hypothesis, and given the importance of the intervention with respect to the surroundings, there is a real possibility of changing or in any case putting a stop to the tendency to attribute this part of the city with a markedly subordinate role compared to the upper city, primarily due to the fact that it has housed most of the elements expelled from the latter over the years. This second hypothesis would also provide an opportunity to bring an ordered, recognizable and civil balance to a consistent part of the lower city. Indeed, the project described here corresponds to this second choice. While still conveying the particular type of community it is designed to house with its own individual character, this new structure therefore opens up the university city to external participation, to the point that it becomes an important of it, including in qualitative terms. As part of the project, this objective is developed along two lines: one directly technical/functional, the other more specifically architectural. This provides an initial explanation of the arrangement of the planned building complex into separate blocks, with the communal services block responding specifically to the abovementioned functional objective. The other recognizable element of mediation is represented in the project by the central colonnade-lined street. This solution offers an evident comparison with Corso Marruccino, the main street in the historic centre of Chieti: the ugly city is compared to the beautiful city. However, there is also clearly a close link between this constructed part of the university city with the embellissement plans of the classical European city (see the recognizable image of Weinbrenner’s Langestrasse for Karlsruhe).
The stylistically uniform street frontage and the full-height open gallery offer an adequate and architecturally recognizable interpretation of the role attributed to this new, important building in the city, which also makes good use of the road itself, as the quintessential public place. The shape of this part of the project represents a definite idea of city architecture. It is clearly impossible to generalize this solution. Its sense also lies in its singularity and uniqueness, while its inclusion in a part of the city qualifies it as a whole. In reality, this is the reason why the colonnade-lined street of the student halls of residence can tangibly seek to become an important piece of architecture that identifies the lower city. This is the case even if its sudden appearance on the artificial platform, together with its clear intrusion into cultivated fields, reveal the so-called haphazard character of a definite architectural intervention in a city that can no longer be recognized in its various component parts, with the exception of his monumental historic centre. Or precisely because of this. What is more, the very idea of a quintessential urban building here ‒ represented by the colonnade-lined street ‒ also becomes confused with the construction tradition of the most important and recurring rural structures in history. It overlaps with the image of the large colonnade-lined open courtyards, of manors, farmhouses, etc., of all the complex and exceedingly rich experiences of rural architecture over the years. The project intents to uphold and exhibit this relationship and ideal link between the building tradition of the city and that of the countryside as openly as possible. Given these circumstances, it is practically impossible to escape from the exemplariness of the image evoked by the architecture. However, while this is true, it is also true that the abrupt intrusion of the building complex against the cultivated backdrop to the colonnade-lined street is, in this sense, a logical and coherent response with respect to the areas set aside as green spaces in the project. Upholding this ideal relationship, with regard to the link between the city and countryside, is a commitment that must be confirmed as far as possible, over and beyond this project. Indeed, here it represents a tangible link and is certainly the most significant and qualified element of the entire university district with respect to the city and the surrounding countryside. The student halls of residence in question consists of several buildings, but these buildings represent a unitary, compact and fully constructed whole: from the eaves of the building units to the paving of the courtyards, their borders and the surfaced road. A building complex contained precisely inside its perimeter. Where it is interrupted, it is open onto the countryside: the greenery that is entailed in the project and, in this case, the surrounding countryside. Every element of the project is also closed onto itself (see the courtyards of the sleeping quarters), opening only onto the colonnade-lined central street.
The life that unfolds in student halls overlooks and flows into that street. It is therefore a rather particular residential unit. A singularly closed residential unit, segregated as far as possible, due to those very elements that identify and characterize it. However, it is also open, literally split in two by the colonnade-lined street. An ancient public element par excellence, the colonnade-lined street here brings together the crooked layout of the built-up city on the one hand and the tidily cultivated hill on the other. The two blocks housing the bedrooms, one of which is two storeys high and the other three storeys high above ground, are formed by three building units, the two at either end with a single span and the central one with a double span. The three north-south aligned units are arranged like a comb compared to the colonnade-lined street, which is overlooked by the accommodation at the end of the corridors and the access stairs. This particular accommodation is also linked by a narrow open gallery beneath the colonnade. The open gallery forms an integral part of the scissor stairs providing access to the various floors. The self-supporting stairs in reinforced concrete are built against the blind wall that encloses the internal courtyards on the side of the colonnade. The communal services block is formed by a single-span unit opening onto the colonnade on the central street. It has the same architectural style and layout as the unit housing the accommodation. Scissor stairs provide access to the two upper floors. The various study, meeting and leisure areas all overlook the narrow open gallery that runs beneath the colonnade-lined front. As in the accommodation block, the open gallery is linked directly with the stairs. In addition to a toilet block, the ground floor also houses a canteen and a self-service laundrette for use by students and local residents. The meetings rooms can also be used by the public when available, facilitated by the separate construction of the block. The canteen block, which is also accessed via the colonnade, houses the relative services on the ground floor and, on the first floor, a single self-service dining area able to accommodate just over 500 diners. On the ground floor, a corridor parallel to the colonnade and open onto it links the two staircases leading to the top floor of the canteen along the entire length of the building. This hallway also leads into the toilets, the various kitchen facilities and spaces, the ticket office and the area leading into the staff toilets. The dining area on the first floor has a height of 5.35 metres. The six-seater tables are arranged in four longitudinal lines. The self-service area (a long counter served by a goods lift and a flight of stairs leading to the kitchen) is situated at the end of the room, near the entrance to the canteen, where users queue up. The dining area is illuminated and ventilated via the wall overlooking the colonnade. It is fully glazed and protected from the sun (southerly exposure) by a grating made from painted staves of solid wood.