Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, one of the icons of national rationalist architecture, links its history to a competition called for the construction of a number of prestigious permanent buildings in the nascent EUR 42 district, acronym for the Universal Exhibition of Rome to be held in 1942. Conceived and designed in 1937 by the architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Lapadula and Mario Romano, the palace due to its cuboidal structure in reinforced concrete, entirely clad in travertine, distinguished by a grid of six by nine arches per façade, constitutes a particularly solemn presence that has maintained unchanged interest over time.
During the Universal Exhibition of 1942 it was supposed to host the Exhibition of Italian Civilisation, as the famous inscription at the top of the four fronts in Roman capital characters evidences ‘a nation of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators, travellers’ and a series of 28 marble statues, inside the arches of the ground floor, allegorical representations of the virtues of the Italian people.
The rigorous travertine cube, a six-story/ eight vision of beauty, perforated by 216 arches, which, as someone wrote, “synthesizes the strength of matter and form in a simple and monumental architecture”, was declared a building of cultural interest, bound for exhibition and museum use. Apart from a few sporadic initiatives, it has remained substantially unused over the years until an agreement between EUR and Fendi group which, providing for a 15-year lease, has allowed the historic fashion company since 2013 to unify the numerous commercial activities located throughout the city in a single location.
A careful renovation, led by architect Marco Costanzi, made the building ‘habitable’ for the first time in its long history, distributing over 15,000 square metres, from the second to the seventh floor, offices and meeting rooms for a complex of more than 400 people. Respecting as much as possible an open and unique perception of the space, a system of transparent glass cubes hosts the working spaces, preserving the original flow of light and an overall, unobstructed view of the interior. The basement has been reserved for the activities that do not require exposure to natural light, including the company’s huge archives. Everything has been designed to be dismantled, allowing the building to return to its original conditions. The important vertical marble cladding the walls and the old red marble floor of the entrance hall were carefully restored, while on the other upper floors have been covered by floating slabs of calcium silicate coated with wood, to minimize the impact of the installations.
Against the public perception of a stone impenetrable monument, the beautiful spaces of the first floor were used as a permanent public gallery, with exhibitions, bookshop, café and lounge areas. Another source of pride for Fendi was to have activated with people who really work with their hands a building that was to be a showcase for Italian artisans.
ESA engineering has followed the MEP Design and Construction Supervision, MEP Handover & Close Out, Acoustic, and Lighting Design. A dynamic simulation of the three-dimensional model of the corporate headquarters including the museum exhibition space and restaurant was created to have a precise overview of the actual sizing of the envelope and internal conditions, the air/wind infiltrations from the outside through the windows, an accurate calculation of shading efficiency and a simulation of thermal loads.
MEP systems were built using new technologies and advanced strategy that allows energy to be recovered in the event of load overlap in the event that the building is simultaneously heated and cooled. In this way it is possible to maximize the performance of air technology, effectively reducing annual consumption. To manage the systems, a technological room was built in an open area detached from the rest of the building.
The power plant consists of three water chillers with circuits of partial and total heat recovery, a chiller with a heat pump, and a central heating plant with a condensing boiler.
The heat transfer fluids are distributed through variable-flow circuits of 4-pipes with an inverter-driven circulation pump. The 4-pipe circuit can deliver hot and cold fluids throughout the year, equipped with secondary circuits with exchangers intermediates, that supply the fan coil air handling units distributed on the various floors of the building. This configuration provides flexibility, and each floor is autonomous, permitting the systems to operate on the different necessities of the users, and facilitating the localized maintenance of the plants. The terminals are connected to local thermostats, which make it possible to manage the climatic conditions of individual areas independently. The types of systems installed on the various floors are fan coil units (cassette, cabinet, or ducted) and primary air (supply and exhaust), all-air systems with treatment units of primary air and recirculation, and for the bathroom, air extraction.
A sanitary water system was built with double central unit located respectively in both the outdoor and underground technical rooms, with two main distribution networks, one for technical water (both hot and chilled) and one for potable water, while hot sanitary water is produced locally on the floors.
The power systems located in a technical building, provides the supply of electricity in MV with a cabin of MV/LV transformation of the user, while the production of energy for
emergency has a generator unit with the possibility of production for uninterruptible power with static UPS. A private production plant has also been built, by the Cogeneration plant, in parallel with the public grid to achieve proper technical-economic optimization of the
energy requirements of the complex. The plant is capable of supplying energy even in the
case of a lack of the public grid, supplied in “island” mode.
For the lighting design, the system consists of lighting tracks, designed specifically for the interior spaces to offer linear LED illumination. The lighting elements are concentrated around the perimeters of the building, while the project confers priority on the natural light through the large glass windows and skylights. The restitution of the night image of the building takes place thanks to the internal lighting. In particular, the brightness levels during the night are controlled by a DALI system capable of adjusting the light intensity according to the external brightness levels.
- Client: Fendi
- Concept & design Architect: Marco Costanzi Architects
- Architect of records: Fabio Pascarella CSTE
- Structure Design, Construction Supervision: Luca Mezzadri, Armando Trento
- MEP Design, Construction Supervision: ESA engineering
- Acoustic Design: ESA engineering
- Lighting Design: ESA engineering
- Fire Safety Design: Compass Ingegneria
- General Contractor: Constructors
- Photo Credits: Fabio Bascetta, Andrea Jemolo