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Residenze Area Ex Neri: Faenza gets a new urban backdrop

Alessandro Bucci Architetti

Residenze Area Ex Neri: Faenza gets a new urban backdrop
By Caterina Testa -

Alessandro Bucci Architetti has rethought a former industrial area of Faenza, transforming it into a contemporary neighborhood defined by its materiality. With the addition of new homes, shops, services, and offices, what was previously a no-go zone has been returned to the local community.

Lying on the border between hills and plains, and crossed by the ancient Via Emilia, Faenza is a town in Italy’s Romagna province. Running north-south, the Via Emilia, rail lines, and a freeway trace out a series of parallel lines that influence the town’s layout and mark off its different zones. Located to the north beyond the rail line, the town’s industrial zone began life early last century, with large manufacturing sites that slope down towards the plain.

Beverage maker Neri previously operated a distillery in one of the largest sites here, adjacent to the historic center of the city. Redevelopment of this site began in 2010. This has seen the industrial buildings replaced with a new district of homes, shops, services, and offices. This major project has redefined this large part of the town, which is now connected to the center by a network of cycle paths and a public transport service, which also connects the city to a large interchange parking lot.

The redevelopment of this approximately 32 acre (13 ha) site was begun by a major Italian corporation, which acquired it to grow its sales area and then became the only player in its sector. The commercial center it established in the district therefore became the driving force behind the entire project.

Alessandro Bucci Architetti oversaw the design of the residences, which were built in several phases. The urban character of the project, testified to by its extraordinary functional diversity, is reflected in the architectural choices made for the design of these homes. Unlike most new residential developments on the edge of urban centers, where homes are stepped back from the street line, here the buildings demarcate the public spaces, with the same kind of relationship between solids and voids that we find in the old sections of Faenza.

The series of buildings along Via della Costituzione, for example, can be seen as a single urban aggregation that defines the border of the estate with the city – a kind of curtain that both demarcates, and provides access to, the rest of the district. The continuous building line is only interrupted by covered walkways that provide access to a shopping arcade. The retail, service, and administrative activities that take place here occupy the ground level and offer much the same experience as found in any historic Italian city.

To accentuate the dynamism of the building elevations, both the ground and roof lines are made up of sections with different slopes. The composition of the façades, dominated by their strong materiality, reflects the extraordinary variety of the homes’ interior layouts, which have been created with freedom and flexibility. The openings that interrupt the brick surfaces are arranged to best meet the functional needs of the individual homes. There are three types: projecting balconies, recessed balconies, and straightforward floor-to-ceiling windows.

The materiality and solidity of exposed brick alternates with the painted aluminum sunscreen panels around the windows, the walls of the projecting balconies, the railings, and the roofs, while emphasizing the horizontality of the shops and offices at ground level. The almost casual alternation of brick, aluminum, and glass gives the façades a homogeneity that’s never repetitive.

The compositional logic of the façades reflects the varied interior layouts. Although over forty apartments were built, the architects were able to incorporate many differences into their designs, while still respecting the building’s construction budget. This variety was made possible by the footprints of the dwellings, the internal composition of the rooms, the position of outdoor spaces, different dimensions, and contrasting views, either over the town center beyond the train tracks or towards the farmed plains to the north. This variety has made it possible to satisfy a vast and varied clientele, with a financially contained but extraordinarily contemporary development for such a small town.

The success of the project is twofold. From the commercial point of view, the residences were all sold before construction was completed. From the urban perspective, an area that was previously a no-go zone with no architectural value was returned to the town of Faenza, along with new services and new views over the countryside.

Architect: Alessandro Bucci Architetti
Location: Faenza, Italy
Year: 2020
Photography by © Pietro Savorelli 
courtesy of Alessandro Bucci Architetti

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