23 October 2015
The restoration of the Torre del Borgo at Villa d’Adda, one of the best-known fortified structures in the Bergamo region, is an excellent example of a mode of reutilization of the existing stock of buildings that is fortunately becoming increasingly common in Italy, as it is in elsewhere in Europe. We are 40 kilometers from Milan, in the area Gianluca Gelmini has chosen to focus on in his work. In fact his roots lie in this territory and he is familiar even with its minor hill towns, treasuring their history and traditions. The complex of Torre del Borgo dates from the 12th century and, after decades of neglect, has been placed in the hands of Gelmini’s CN10 studio, which has been given the job of turning it into a public library. The architect from Bergamo has adopted a “detached” attitude, i.e. one profoundly respectful of the setting and the location, but ready to “question, if necessary, its very raison d’être.” “This does not mean,” continues Gelmini, “remaining indifferent to the context, but understanding its more intimate relations, taking in its characteristics, forms and material, in order to make a synthesis more or less consistent with the initial program.” In keeping with these premises, the project for reclamation of the site has set out to unify the different blocks by acting on two complementary fronts: the search for solutions to problems of structural decay and the reinterpretation of the whole complex from the viewpoint of its architecture, arrangement and function. In accordance with its philosophy of design, CN10 has added only a few elements, consistent with the nature of the building. The four rooms of the central tower have been united by a system of iron stairways and walkways that recall the former single flight of stairs. This choice does not alter the overall appearance and usability of the spaces inside and is invisible from the outside, keeping the historic profile of the tower unchanged. This connecting element also links up with a new volume on three levels to be used for services, which has been added onto the old part and clad in copper: the contrast of this material with the stone of the adjoining façade, which in a way marks the formal change of use, is muted by the choice of essential lines in harmony with those of the tower. The intervention in the historic building has obviously altered its front onto the square, which will shortly be the subject of the second phase of work.