Type: commission
Client: private
Size: 10.000 mq sb/ 24.000 mq terrain
Location: Alba, Italy
Status: In progress
Copyright: 2017 © Studio Rolla s.r.l., Roberto Pagnano
Team: Stefano Comba,  Giuseppe Esposito, Michele Santarelli, Samuele Fuda




‘If you ask to a brick,” What do you want, brick?”

 And brick says to you, “I like an arch.” And you say to brick, “Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.” And then you say: “What do you think of that, brick?” Brick says: I like an arch.’ 


You see, it is important that you honor the material you use.


Louis Kahn


The project proposal combines three different levels in an systematic way:


  1. a) functional
  2. b) symbolic
  3. c) listening to the vocation and the memory of the place


Functional: it responds clearly – with an evident correspondence between structure and function, between architectural envelope and activities in it included – to the need to have available spaces  easily scalable for a common use (congresses, sports, entertainment).


Symbolic: it declares, through the structure of its constitutive elements (the wide and estende promenade, the raised boardwalk to see the view, the monumental staircase, the wide size building and his court, the tree-lined street that evokes the rhythmic articulation of the building), a clear public vocation and representation.


Listening to the vocation and the memory of the place: because it adopts the brick finishing (recognizing and enhancing a centuries-old tradition of the Alba territory, centre, by the half of ‘800, of kilns for brick production); because it gets back and changes in a cultured and elegant way, the typology “shed” – tangible symbol of local productivity – that characterizes Alba’s lands.


It is especially regarding the Roman heritage (and in the rut of one of the greatest architect of twentieth – Louis I. Kahn – who seems to look away  with great respect this project) that shows a “timeless”  tract of the project and its deepest essence: traits that deploy with the introduction of primary geometric shapes and the use of a simple material and incorruptible in time as the rough brick.


This project – thanks to the coexistence of tipologically different elements, in addition to the building, as the promenade, the raised square, the underlying vehicular crossing, the staircase, the tree.lined area, the green areas- seems to propose a “primary complexity” capable to generate a real “visiting experience”, similar to that described by Gordon Cullen in the treaty The Concise townscape of 1961, when he states:


/ … / A building that stands alone in the countryside is perceived as a work of architecture; but if you gather several items you can make a different art  from the architecture. And, let’s presume that the elements were grouped so you can penetrate within the group, now the space created among the buildings will be seen as having a life, who goes over and beyond the buildings that create it / … /



Five suggestions related to Roman Alba


# 1 The river port as a design metaphor


The project develops the theme of the “multi-purpose center”, a place where there is an exchange of knowledge, where relationships are established working together, whre you sign deals and it is possible carry out different activities.  In Roman times, the area identified by the project was enhanced by the presence of the river port on the Tanaro (the riverbed was located more south than the current course): commercial door and place of important exchange for the economic development of the commercial triangle made of Alba, Pollenzo and Bene Vagienna.


# 2 A possible genius loci: the  “public”  vocation of the project area.

The site of the “multi-purpose center” project is located near the Roman Alba bay characterized by the presence of  structures with public functions such as the forum, the theatre, the amphitheatre and the complex.


The model of the Roman block


# 3 The compositional model  of the “Multipurpose center” project is comparable in shape and size with the block (insula) of Roman Alba: the first is set to a square model of 67 x 67 meters, the second has dimensions of 71 x 71 meters.


# 4 The “Peace Temple”: a model of public architecture.


Still in the north / northwest of Roman Alba, at the end of the first century. A.D. the public space is expanded with the addition of a new forensic-religious complex that shows an other phase  of the monumentalization of the city. It is structured into a quadrangular area of ​​49 X 50 meters delimited by an arcade and characterized by a sequence of quadrangular and semicircular exedras. Archaeologists and the architecture historians presume that it is a Templum Pacis, probably inspired by the one wanted by Vespasian to the Roman Forum.

# 5 The use of “exposed” brick


The city wall of Roman Alba was made up of foundations in opus caementicium and a lot of opus vittatum mixtum (a mixed structure of stone and brick with elements organized in horizontal levels) double brick  use with a “monolayer – exposed brickwork” upholstery brick both outside and inside.

The “multi-purpose center” project provides for the intervention the use of upholstery brick (monolayer – exposed brickwork) to protect the structural skeleton placed inside.