A versatile structure integrated into the vegetation following the demolition of a warehouse
Given the brief of designing a university hub in direct contact with nature and up among the treetops of its wooded setting, Alvisi Kirimoto and Studio Gemma created an education “treehouse” for the LUISS Guido Carli private university in Rome’s Parioli district. The project involved the demolition of a warehouse and its reconstruction and expansion. Providing 16,150 sq.ft. (1500 m2) of floorspace on two levels, the design grew out of two needs: on the one hand, to create a constant connection with the surrounding greenery and the main outdoor areas of the campus, and, on the other, to raise the structure off the ground so as to open the ground-level floor to the outdoors while also lightening its appearance, with the base smaller than the volume above with its cantilevered sections. The result is that the ground-level floor is both open and covered, and suitable for both teaching and events. However, a similar dematerialization effect is also clearly seen on the upper floor, created by its large windows and thin timber slats. This permeable, transparent skin helps the structure dissolve into its surroundings – that is, it doesn’t make its presence felt unduly while it simultaneously takes on a welcoming and, at times, domestic atmosphere from its setting.
Besides the purely educational activities envisaged by the LUISS Guido Carli university for this innovative building, thanks to the flexibility of its various spaces, it can also host cultural, artistic, literary, and film events, as well as conferences and debates. Besides the outdoor space, at ground level are the main entrance, a classroom, and various service areas. The upper floor has two classrooms and a lecture theater. The two levels are connected by a staircase with crossed ramps in a double-height space and with the outside by further stairs. Designed to be multifunctional, the classrooms and lecture theater redefine the balance between face-to-face teaching and distance learning. They are equipped with sophisticated audio-video systems and services that are perfectly integrated into the architecture and, therefore, have minimal impact on it.
The suspended acoustic panels, for example, which form a suspended ceiling in the hall, are a coral red color and capture people’s attention even from outside, while their organic shape reinforces the dialogue with the adjacent wooded area. The same bright red has also been used for the furnishings and other elements in the classrooms – an elegant detail that gives the entire complex great visual coherence, especially when lit up in the early evening.
Colors, textures, and materials (mostly natural and an important element in achieving LEED Platinum certification) therefore mix with the outdoors and the warmth of wood, creating a balanced interplay of similarities and contrasts.
Thanks to the work carried out on this part of the campus, including its surrounding outdoor spaces, interaction and collaboration among students have become core values. All the outdoor areas are equipped and organized to encourage study, informal meetings, relaxation, and play, offering infinite possibilities for socializing and flexibility of use. The new structure could be compared to a telescope in that it juts out over the greenery and opens sightlines onto the square below. It forms the new heart of campus life.
“The permanent link between the structure and the surrounding greenery points to an innovative approach to education that, to encourage learning, focuses on the wellbeing generated by the relationship with nature,” says Massimo Alvisi, cofounder of Alvisi Kirimoto. “The high permeability that characterizes the skin of the building not only facilitates its integration into the landscape and opportunities for exchange with the entire student community, but it’s also a conceptual choice that refers to the openness of the campus.”
Location: Roma, Italy
Architects: Alvisi Kirimoto and Studio Gemma
Build up area: 1.500 m2
Client: Luiss Guido Carli
Bathroom cladding: Marazzi
Photography by Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Alvisi Kirimoto