The Prato Lofts, designed by mdu architetti, deals with the transformation of a warehouse of the second half of XX century located in Prato, Tuscany, in Italy. The building is located in a unique urban tissue of the city of Prato, that was perfectly described by Bernardo Secchi with the word mixitè, that is made of small houses, industrial buildings, open spaces with spontaneous activities of urban agricolture.
The city of Prato is one of the largest industrial district for textile production worldwide. Starting from the eighties of XX century Prato has undergone into a deep transformation of its traditional models of production, like many other eurpean cities. The public debate was concentrated on defining appropriate strategies in order to redefine the relationships between industrial and residential zones. The answer to this debate led to a simplified approach based on the removal of the industrial buildings towards the outskirts of the city and their substitution with residential condominiums.
The Prato Lofts project first of all deals with the dynamics of transformation of the contemporary city, adopting a cultural attitude that promotes the themes of temporal stratification, urban “melting pot”, architecture of the city conceived as accumulation: metamorphosis versus replacement. The new facade clearly explicits the metamorphosis of the existing building: a wall made of pigmented conctete is clearly pronounced by the presence of a series of vertical cut that lead to small entry courts. Each loft exploits the specific spatial and constructive elements of the existing building, generating informal spaces for life in wich contemporary issues are related to the former industrial past of the building.
The XIII century walls of the city of Prato are the main conceptual reference: a stone defensive wall that it’s only apparently impenetrable and that conceals an inner world made of life and dreams. The project for the Prato Lofts, like the defensive walls, hides and protects everyday domestic life and at the same time stimulates multiple relations among the inhabitants and the natural elements. Besides the horizontal enclosure towards the city, on the opposite the interiors are based on a refined vertical openness towards the sky: the skylights, the internal courts, the wide terraces on the upper floor generate open and well-lighted places of living, deeply connected to the variations of the sky.
The house becomes a precious crystal, that is “dirtied” by human life at the same time. The project for the Prato Lofts tries to synthesize the mysterious and fascinating message that architecture, according to Gio Ponti, should transmit: “[…] beautiful like a crystall, but hollowed like a grotto full of stalactites. It’s a crystall when it’s beautiful, simple, but it has man inside, devil of Cartesio: but it’s so human” (Gio Ponti). mdu architetti is an associated firm established in Prato, Italy in 2001 by Valerio Barberis (1971), Alessandro Corradini (1964) and Marcello Marchesini (1970), later joined by Cristiano Cosi (1974). As regards their design approach, the members of mdu say: “The sphere of activities includes contemporary landscapes, physical and non-physical places now inhabited by humans. The method is based on doubt, the neverending discussion of all that appears obvious, usual and certain, in the conviction that there are many invisible cities besides the official one. The approach is aimed at seeking new trajectories through a different, transgressive look at each landscape. The purpose is to pierce reality: architecture is a collision between the identities that comprise each landscape.”
mdu’s works have received many awards and much recognition, and have featured in national and international publications. The firm has been invited to participate in several exhibitions and workshops both in the main Italian cities (Florence, Milan, Naples, Palermo and Rome) and abroad (Lisbon, London, Oslo and Shanghai). Completed works include: the Poolhouse Fioravanti in Prato, the RRS & Feng Lin showroom in Shanghai, the EsseBi showroom in Agliana (PT), the Contemporary Art Gallery of Florence dedicated to Giuliano Vangi, the transformation of industrial buildings into lofts in Prato, the Municipal Library of Greve in Chianti (FI), and the Theatre of Montalto di Castro (VT).
Works under construction include: the Municipal Theatre and Media Library of Acri (CS), the Castelnuovo Social Club (PO), the new premises of the Prato Chamber of Commerce, the Metropolitan commercial-residential centre in Livorno and the Italian Trade Centre “I Principi d’Italia” in Quanjiao (Nanjing, China). As well as their professional activities, the members of mdu are also dedicated to research and teaching. Valerio Barberis and Marcello Marchesini (who both have PhDs in architectural design) are currently adjunct professors in Architecture Design at the Faculties of Architecture of Florence and Parma. Alessandro Corradini holds a fellowship in art and architecture at the Schloss Solitude Academy in Stuttgart.Location: Prato, Italy
Architects: mdu architetti | Valerio Barberis, Alessandro Corradini, Cristiano Cosi, Marcello Marchesini Collaborators: Nicola Becagli, Michele Fiesoli Project name: Prato Lofts Program: transformation of an old warehouse in 5 lofts Client: CDM immobiliare Structural engineer: Venturi & Motta Mechanical and electrical engineer: Venturi & Motta Site construction supervision: Marcello Marchesini Building cost: € 750.000 Dimentions
roofed area: 360 sqm
gross area: 703 sqm
volume: 2.113 cubic meters Materials: pigmented concrete schedule
design: 2004 – 2005
ground breaking: 2006
completion: 2008 Photographer: Pietro Savorelli, Courtesy of MDU Architetti Contractors
general contractor: Bassi Danilo & c. – Prato