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Great Expectations

Maria Vittoria Chiappetta, Sara Marcenaro

A walk through contemporary architecture in Genoa: Buranello Civic Center.

The video "Great Expectations" was conceived and filmed by students of the "Architectural Design" course held by Valter Scelsi at Genoa University. The aim was to focus attention on contemporary architecture and its maintenance: when architectural value is overlooked, even valuable buildings are affected by deterioration.

A girl moves from a room to another, in a building that is a library but also a gym, a school and an auditorium. A building that is not only functions, but also links: it is made of stairways, elevators, corridors; in some contorted way, every single room is reachable from every other place in the building.

This is the first impression when you get to the Buranello civic centre, in that strange reality that is Sampierdarena: a reality in which a glorious past left a clear footprint, not totally removed by the nearer years of industrialization.

The first things you notice, when you get - often unexpectedly – to the centre, are colors. The structure is covered in metal sheets of yellow and blue, interrupted by round windows that make you see the listels of a metallic ceiling. It is quite impossible to understand the way functions find a place in the building, if you don't get in: you only see this great complex of colored parallelepipeds, wondering how they could house so many different functions.

So, you enter.

You understand the importance of links simply from the entrance: there's a staircase, but also an elevator, and they bring you to totally different places. From any of this places you can get to other places, sometimes clearly indicated, sometimes totally unexpected. You wander if you're in the right place, or if you have completely lost yourself in this big, metal monster. You take stairways and corridors that are so narrow you wonder if they’ll lead you somewhere, or if you'll get to a closet without exit. A servant brings you to another elevator, in which you couldn't go without a special permission. He has a little key in his pocket, bound to other dozens of keys that you imagine could bring you everywhere in the world. He inserts it in a keyhole in the elevator, and you quickly are in another corridor. He indicates you a staircase, than elevator’s doors close. You go up, open a door, go up again, open another door.

And finally you’re out: you've found the exit, you’ve found the ending part of this tangle. You look around: a train passes just ten meters from you, making a great noise. It is strange, you'd completely forgotten there was a rail so near. You didn’t hear the noise of trains passing by when you were inside, it was like being kilometers far from there.

You've lived an experience, the experience of loosing yourself in a place that – apparently – have no logic. But, in reality, it has: you realize that, despite of your entangled rising to the rooftop, now you know the building as it was your home. You’d know at least five different ways to go the gym; you'd know how to get to the library without using elevators, or how to find the school without being seen by anyone.

This was the principal idea in Fausto Colombo and Guido Veneziani's heads, that designed the building at the beginning of the Eighties. This should have been one of the first public buildings in Italy without architectural boundaries: every floor is accessible by everyone, thanks to the elevators’ system.

Unfortunately, the building you see now is not the same you could see in 1984, the year in which it opened. And it is not even the building you could see in Colombo and Veneziani's drawings, because the project was never led to an end. It remained partially closed because of the lack of funds, and the rooftop you're on now is not normally accessible. There are no banisters around, you could jump and find yourself in the street. It could be a quick way to find your way home.

But you know it is impossible to leave this building in a so simple way. You enter the door, and start descending…

(Text by Sara Marcenaro)


Authors: Valentina Costa, Laura Tomic
Architect: Fausto Colombo, Guido Veneziani
Mentioned project: Buranello Civic Centre
Project location: Genoa, Italy

Italy 2016
Duration: 2'08''