If you have travelled through the region of Emilia by train, you will have noticed the degradation of the social housing complexes visible from the railway station in Modena. Designed in the ’70s by Modena architect Vinicio Vecchi, the complex included a tunnel leading to the upper levels from the pedestrian entrance on Via Canaletto. The inside of the tunnel was mute, without any views of the outside, and over the years it had become unsafe and been exposed to vandalism.
The architects decided to use FMG, Eiffelgres and Iris Ceramica materials to cover the floors and walls, the key to a process of functional and aesthetic renewal aimed at transforming what used to be simply a private access into a public gallery ideal for housing businesses. First of all, a second entrance was opened up on the western side to connect a new parking area with the side on Via Canaletto. Having redesigned the Galleria R-Nord in this way, no longer as a blind element but as a through route, the architects then gave it a new face. Unlike the original project, in which there were businesses only on the outside, there are now shop windows on the inside too, including the floor-to-ceiling windows of a Coop supermarket measuring 1200 square metres, entirely repaved with Iris Ceramica’s Madeira Corda 60x12, with a thickness of 13mm.
The outdoor areas were redeveloped by adding wooden sunbreaks, opening a café and more shops, and designing new street furnishings. The new interior wall and floor coverings supplied by FMG and Eiffelgres played an essential role, allowing the gallery to perform its new function as a welcoming passageway which also offers services.
Colour is the key to the new look, which literally explodes out of the gallery through the entrances on Via Canaletto and the portal framing the entrance to the parking lot to create a permanent artistic installation. The architects chose surfaces in bright colours, alternating red, pink, acid green and yellow. The floor is a continually changing carpet of colour in which 60x60 squares are cut in half to make triangles that break with the modular design to enliven the effect of the whole. The geometry is broken up and put back together again, accompanying users in their shopping and entertainment experience. The new fits into the old without any misunderstanding, making a break that in actual fact updates and emphasises a detail of the original composition.
The space is brightened up with reflections thanks to the openings in the ceiling and to the diffuse, non-invasive lighting. As they had to be suitable for both outdoor and indoor use and withstand intense pedestrian traffic, the coverings are non-slip and were selected for their resistance to wear, frost and chemical products, as well as their ability to maintain all their colour and brilliance even when exposed to the sun.
The use of new flooring materials to connect indoor and outdoor materials triggered a process of reappropriation by the local population, creating the sense of security that had been missing from the site. Thus the gallery came to be populated and used not only during commuting times but throughout the day, which was the result desired by the clients, who included the apartment-dwellers themselves, the businesses in the gallery and the public sector, with the involvement of the City of Modena and CambiaMO, an urban redevelopment company set up specifically to implement the project.
Architects: INRES, Area-17 Architecture & Interiors, Paolo Lucchetta + Retail Design
Location: Modena (Italy)
Start of work: 2015
Completion of work: September 15, 2016
Client: Coop Alleanza 3.0; CambiaMO; ACER Modena; R-Nord apartment building
Floors and walls inside and outside the gallery: FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti - Iris Ceramica Spa Group
Walls: Chromocode 3d, 60x60, natural finish (200 sqm)
Floors: Chromocode 3d, 60x60 alternating with 60x60 cut into two triangles for project texture, natural finish with etching to permit certification for outdoor use (about 1600 sqm)
Floor and wall coverings: Eiffelgres - Gruppo Iris Ceramica Spa
Walls: Greigetone Dust, 60x60, natural finish
Floors: Greigetone Dust, 60x60 alternating with 60x60 cut into two triangles for project texture, bush serviceable -hammered finish
Flooring in Coop supermarket: Iris Ceramica, Madeira Corda 60x12, thickness 13 mm (1200 mq)
Photos by: © Maurizio Picci, Pietro Savorelli