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Towers of Culture

Riccardo Renzi, Elena Ceccarelli, Alessio Biagioli & Simone Fiesoli

Calvana is a mountain very close to Florence, Italy.
It has several historical-rural settelments, abandoned during last 100 years. Some of them are born during the XIlI and XIV century as medieval towers for landscape and country control. Our proposal is to held a Cultural function to attract visitors from cities and to restore a normal way of living and reaching rural mountain of Calvana.

The cultural function of library for 100 users is perfectly adapt to renew one of the most iconic settlement of the Calvana that has been always called "Le Torri" (the Towers). This magical place is built as a system of seven towers that, during time, have been transformed in rural house for farmers, and than dismissed. At the moment only one part of the settlement has been recovered as farmer-house and guest house.

The main volumes are now empty and to be restored and recovered with some Cultural function, to preserve historical, material and immaterial Cultural Heritage of this specific italian architecture, with its strong identity and strong relationship with place and buildings techniques.

Library as architectural typology is, in the last twenty years, underrated due to the born of digital technologies. Since the Sendai Mediateque by Toyo Ito, the last experimental design for the survivor of the library typology, less and less library buildings have been developed, thinked and built around the world. This tendence, opposite from the large scale growth from XIX and XX century, will possibly transform the architecture of the library in a way more close Cultural building (as Museum) than the library as we have know for hundreds of years.

This proposal take this concept as fundamental scope of the design. The proposed library is intended to have a social target, to attract visitors in a rural-no more use, settlement and landscape; and it has also an experimental target, to design a library that celebrates the book and the open research as for the Dewey methods of cathalogs (open shelves open folders).

The library take place in the existing rural dismissed buildings, the towers. The reading room for more than 100 users (108) is set in the main volume (Torrione) that is the results of years of abandoned place. Idea is to set a new foundation system, a general consolidation of stone walls (with natural fibers and natural lime mixed with sand of place) and placing a light glass-metal framed cover for roofing and light control.

The storage of books is placed in the Tinaia space, a place that during time has been transformed passing from open air rural used space to a covered oil and wine storage. This space is set as it is, beside a renovation of pavement (removing old circular sets for oil and wine tanks) and a renovation of roof elements keeping the originals. In Tinaia the books shelves, open, draws some “interior” spaces not phisically divided but suggested, in order to create an immersive experience for the users searching for books. In these “islands” of immaterial space, the user can sit, wait and peacefully search books and start to read before to sit in the reading room.

Underground space called Grotta (cave) is a natural space that has been used since the medieval time to storage best rural product in the place. The proposal design the rare books and museum of cultural heritage of place inside of the Grotta. The idea is to clean and to restore the place still using original materials, stones, natural limes and natural reinforced fibers. The last space is a small ancient tower called Torrino. This is thinked to be restored with original walls and to hosts exposition of ancient cartography maps, related to the library.

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