architect: Cherubino Gambardella
location: Montesarchio, Italy
Something enormous, a huge box distributed on two levels, two hundred and fifty metres long, seventy wide and ten tall: this was the starting point. A shopping mall, like so many others Italy, but in a very fascinating location, in a rural area crossed by the Via Appia, a few kilometres from the Medieval fortress of Montesarchio, not far from Benevento. The surrounding old industrial sheds contribute to give this imposing scenario an atmosphere of abandon. The idea was simple: to build about sixty thousand square meters on three floors: an underground level for parking, excavated like a ditch, a shopping gallery on the ground floor supported by a forest of columns based in the parking area and surrounded by a kilometre-long succession of rusticated ashlars in grey concrete.
On the first floor, finally, a long loggia of rectangular pillars drop asymmetrically, setting the rhythm of the external facades like terraces, while a number of patios within illuminate areas dedicated to service activities and offices. Five kinds of panels in a casual arrangement form the immense shell, an imposing architectural form which, echoing Italian Renaissance palazzos and many military architectures, gives this building of quite strange proportions, determined by abstract indexes, a severe and powerful character. This is how I have envisaged a palazzo dedicated to commerce, like a fortification with two very conspicuous and slender entrances. It is a matter of true fauces, imagined as if they were to swallow the consumers and expel them after their trip along the annular itinerary of the square. Inside a colourful environment distinguishes the shopping galleries and the two squares, characterized by the escalators in a scissor arrangement which connect the parking floor to the heart of the building. A white, essential and austere staircase leads to the office floor, where rough and essential materials again prevail. A contemporary palazzo, an elaboration of the idea of monument, stylized to resume a subtle dialogue with the old medieval fortresses of the Benevento district, with the reliefs of the Taburno and the Partenio, an exchange that has been cancelled by a linear city, built without epos and without secrets.
Cherubino Gambardella (Napoli 1962) is architect, regular professor in architectural composition since 2000 and director of the department of architectural composition, restoration and technology at the Second University of Naples. He has participated at the Biennial of Venice and at the Quadrienniale of Rome several times, and has received special mentions for the Gold Medal of Italian Architecture of the Triennale in Milan. Four monographs have been published on his work as an architect, and he has won several prizes and international design competitions. His projects have been published in Domus, Detail, Arquitectura Viva, Abitare, Area, A+U, A10, Frame, World Architecture, Architektur Verruckt, The Plan, Casabella, etc. He has planned and built architectures in some of the most fascinating sceneries of Italy, but also in difficult and degraded areas.
Simona Ottieri (Portici 1971) is architect and Research Fellow in technology of materials at the Engineering Faculty of the “Federico II” University in Naples. She has conducted research at the Polytechnic of Catalonia in Barcelona in 2002, aimed at the recovery of new cultural heritages. In 2007 she has participated in the Annals of Architecture and of the City of Naples while winning prestigious recognitions in various architecture competitions. In 2008 she won the competition for the restyling of the Loreto Station of the Subway of Milan, a work which is currently in progress. She has written two books, and has published projects in catalogues and international magazines. In 1996 she joined the firm gambardellarchitetti, which she has directed since 2003.