The new company headquarters is both a management centre and an exhibition space. A series of offices for the commercial and managerial sections on the upper floors, a room for the bigger meetings with a great glass wall giving onto the outer world, a showroom to present the firm’s ceramic products against an attractive backdrop of history and modernity. This project by Enrico Mussini and Simone Testi sets out to make the building itself illustrate the technological and expressive potential of ceramics, as well as being geared to energy saving and eco-friendly architecture.
The building has a reinforced concrete structure, stands three storeys high and is long and terrace-like. The main elevations face south-east and north-west and are a counterpoint of shape, pattern and volume. The basic regular elongated cube is broken up and varied by prism-shapes, partly of glass, jutting from the façade plane and forming some sharp angles along the north-west side. The opposite elevation contains some windowless protuberances that serve to extend office space giving the necessary depth for cupboards and fixtures. This complicated façade composition is reflected in the materials used and the ratio of full/empty – expression blending with technological application. Panels of porcelain stoneware fixed to a metal frame demonstrate the potential of ceramic materials as cladding for ventilated curtainwalls. The pattern of window apertures and see-through portions of façade rings all possible combinations and once again distinguishes the two elevations: strip windows of various sizes stretch along the north-west façade, some like low shining slits of light, others somewhat taller, and others again of the broad rectangular picture-window kind. Interspersed is the occasional vertical glazed section picking out the prism shapes and the most prestige indoor areas. The basic composition motif of the south-east side is projecting ‘blind’ portions alternating with glazed ‘gaps’ that tend to be vertical in alignment. One narrow projection corresponding to the reception area and letting light in on the staircase divides the façade in two. Both looking onto lawns outside, these two halves have a different ground level: in one case a full-height glass wall lets light into the meeting room and makes a feature of it; the other half with the showroom digs down like a basement and is lit by a thin line of strip windows. Juxtaposed with porcelain stoneware and glass runs a kind of plinth in Cor-ten steel flaunting the material’s typical rust-red colouring. Access to the building is by a low porch structure, likewise clad in Cor-ten steel panels which draw the eye and heighten the visual effect. The foyer is oriented around its wedge-shaped reception desk, and opens out into a double-height hall, the main hub of indoor traffic: to one side in a light and elegantly tasteful space is the waiting room, flooded in light from its outer wall; the stairs/lift zone is all see-through and illumination, with a lift shaft in acid-etched glass, and glass banisters up the stairs and around landings. The reception area is thus a web of comings and goings from all angles, and this is reflected in the exposed beams crisscrossing the ceiling. Floor layout is designed to avoid central symmetry and repetitive sequences. The corridor serving the offices is off-centre, which differentiates the spaces by size, type and connectability. The top floor opens into one large flexible room punctuated by the odd bearing column and with only the washroom facilities partitioned off. Two skylights open if need be for a through-draft and help improve indoor wellbeing. The light is passed on to the floors beneath by transparent panels let into the floor.
The whole design of this Refin headquarters is based on rational complexity of indoor layout and façade composition, as well as sensitivity to environmental issues. The final touch is added by the exhibition hall designed by Duccio Grassi. The idea here is to link the history of ceramics with present-day company production. An elegant first room has a number of display ‘niches’ opening off it: shapes that become ceramic sculptures; a mirror full-length down one wall doubles the room size; light points set in the ceiling flood exhibits and display cases in a seductive glow; the light tones of the infill walling go with the darker hues of the stoneware floors.
This project is one of the winners of the Award "Simes - Progetto Luce Ecosostenibile".
Location: Casalgrande, Reggio Emilia
Client: Ceramiche Refin
Gross Floor Area: 2813 m2
Cost of Construction: 3.500.000 Euros
Architects: Enrico Mussini and Simone Testi
Exhibition Hall Design: Duccio Grassi Architects
Works Management: Enrico Mussini
Site Coordination for Client: Gianluca Fedele
Structural: Moreno Fornaciari
Heating: Daniele Ferroni
Electrical Installations: Achille Mucci
Lighting: Luca Pazzaglia
Infill and Timber Panelling: Vibro-Bloc
Doors, Windows and Curtain Walls: Uniform
Partitions and Furnishings: Faram
Heating and Plumbing: Sici Impianti
Electrical Installations: R.B. Impianti
Ventilated Façades: Aliva (Ivas Goup)
Photo by: © Mauro Davoli
Testi graduated in Architecture in 1998 from Politecnico di Milano. His thesis dealt with urban fringes as centres for contemporary life. His professional career began with Studio Lugli in Modena, where he was involved in the conversion of the disused Falk area in Sesto San Giovanni. This was followed by other urban and architectural projects. In 2004 he opened his own studio. He is currently involved in the design of work and retail spaces, the refurbishment of historic buildings, and new builds. He also designs furniture for his projects.
Mussini graduated in architecture from Politecnico di Milano. He then worked with a number of studios, gaining experience in design and construction site management.
Duccio Grassi Architects
With offices in both Milan and Reggio Emilia, Duccio Grassi Architects is involved in retail design, working on projects in the world’s most important capitals with an approach that focuses on experimentation and innovation. It creates projects and design concepts for buildings, boutiques and showrooms for numerous fashion brands, including Max Mara, Zara, Canali, Guru, Guess by Marciano, Penny Black, Max&Co, and Iris Ceramica. The studio also designs private homes, restaurants, jewellery stores, shopping centres and offices, such as the extension of Wafi City Mall in Dubai, the Al Hamra Mall, the Al Mazaya headquarters, and the Yasra headquarters in Kuwait.
Duccio Grassi Architects won an invitation-only international competition organized by Inditex for the design of the new Zara outlet in Via del Corso, Rome, which opened in December 2010. It has participated in Milan’s Salone del Mobile with its furniture designs for Emmebi, Minotti Cucine, and Viabizzuno. Highlights among its may awards are the Architectural Design Award, conferred by the Beverly Hills Architectural Commission of Los Angeles, for the Canali outlet; the Concours des Plus Belles Devantures de Boutiques et Enseignes Lumineuses de Paris, awarded by the Ville de Paris, for the Marina Rinaldi outlet; and the Excellence in Commercial Design Award, conferred by the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District in New York, for the Max Mara store.