AAA architetti cercasi, 3rd prize | Catania, Italy
Our idea for Piazza Lupo is a space simultaneously open and closed, public and private, that can be freely manipulated by the users, providing them facilities and services in order to activate a cooperative area for the residents, and especially for those who live in the neighborhood: a common area, organized and self-managed, at the same time a compact environment and a space with many potential possible uses.
The fulfillment of this aim come through the creation of a fluid playground, that penetrates and permeates the structure of the former gym, connecting the outdoor soil with the interior one. This action creates small dunes and valleys, and contributes to bring in the middle of the city a landscape that imitates the natural ones. The playground is both built and garden, it penetrates the box of the gym, spreading between the concrete columns, open the building in a square, integrating the surrounding space, giving new urban quality to the neighborhood.
The gym becomes the new permeable center of the square: under its roof take place all the activities. The walls are no longer a clear boundary, they turn into windows that allow to live and see all the surrounding, avoiding the creation of a space enclosed and inaccessible: this soft fence made of glass doors, along with the sinuous playground, is designed to encourage the citizens to take part to the life of the building.
Between the gym and the playground three simple volumes contains all the functions that require a private space. In a first volume take place a local library and a study room. The library has a glass wall looking on the square, to keep a constant relationship between the interior and the outside world, still maintaining the necessary comfort for the activities.
Another volume is dedicated to the cafeteria, which is open at the same time both on the inside and on the outside, with a space reserved for the kitchen.
In the third volume are set changing rooms and bathrooms.
Beyond every other parts of the building, the central space keep its key role. It is completely defined by glass wall, ideally open to the outside, it could fulfill its original function, the gym, but at the same time the open space is flexible, and may accommodate several functions, promoting an active use by the people. It aims to be a place where neighborhood could set up events, or small markets, it could be rent by artisans in need of temporary spaces; it could host a Ciclofficina, to repair bikes. It may just be the place where people meet and talk, or to play and dance together. The playground itself can also accomodate a small theater for plays or concerts.
The garden, the pond, and the gym will also be a space for children’s activities. While the roof becomes accesible, thanks to the insert of a ladder; the two sloping wings of the roof’s structure host benches for the central stage which provides a global point of view upon the whole square.
It will become a place where residents could ideally extend their houses, working or relaxing together. According to the new proposal, all the activities will be collaborative and no longer private. The residents themselves will manage them, and the gain will be used for the maintenance of the entire complex.
This ‘soft share economy’ will lay the foundations to develop a new common neighborhood identity, to strengthen the idea of collaborative community.
The proposal keep intact the strong repetition of concrete frames of the gym structure. The playground only works on the claddings walls, the boundaries of the building, opening free spaces between the pillars, replacing old and obsolete brick walls with lighter glass walls. The interior becomes a powerful open space, with the exception of the electrical enclosure, and the creations of three new volumes that respond to the new functionality. The playground and the garden invade the space of the square, in order to reconnect it with the gym, and provide the necessary street furniture.
Our idea of the square aim to build an "higher ground”.
Physically, the project allows the users to reach different heights: through the sinuous playground that rises and decreases under the big roof and through the new accesible roof that opens a new point of view on Catania.
Socially, the goal we have pursued is to open this space to the outside, bringing into the central space the public realm and moving to the edges the private activities in order to give back to Catania and its inhabitants an important shared urban place.