Renovation of Vignetta building
Building transformation - USI Accademia di Architettura
The building known as “Vignetta” (named after the former bar-restaurant that once occupied the ground floor) was built at the start of the twentieth century at the centre of the campus of the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio. It was acquired by USI (the University of Italian Switzerland) in 2005 with the intention of using the upper floors as staff offices for the Accademia. Prior to the intervention, the rooms on the first and second floor had been used for residential purposes and were in a poor state of repair. The ancient floors consisted of a support structure made from timber beams, with floorboards over which various flooring materials – even concrete – had been laid. A static survey revealed that the load-bearing capacity of the floor slabs was not in compliance with legal requirements. We opted for a solution that was specific and adapted to the different requirements. Where possible the existing timber structure was retained and consolidated; where this proved unfeasible, the floors were removed and rebuilt using a hollow-core concrete structure.
In order to adapt the building to its new function, the following works were carried out:
- removal of one of the two existing staircases because redundant
- construction of new reinforced concrete floor slabs in the space obtained by removing the stair well
- complete removal of the original timber floors in four rooms, replaced by new hollow-core concrete floor slabs
- consolidation of the original timber floors in four rooms, strengthened with joists and reinforced concrete
- removal of one bathroom
- restoration of the wooden staircase leading to the attic and installation of new hand rails and banisters made from steel rebars
- replacement of the electrical panel, new power distribution network and internet connection system
- new lighting for offices
- construction of four entrance door boards for as many offices
Given the uniqueness of the building, all interventions were intended to preserve its historical character. In particular, the existing doors and original floors were retained where they were found to be in a good state of conservation. Traces of the successive transformations of the building were retained and left exposed, as in the case of the second staircase, which had to be cut as the steps were embedded into the wall: the cut steps remain visible on the wall surface.