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Architects   PIANO, RENZO
Date   1996-2001
Address   PARMA, ITALY
Floor Plan    

When building onto an existing structure in an urban context, one has to have a good grasp of the city’s distinct fabric - potential connections between the existing building and the new vision for it needs to be thoroughly understood. The old Eridiana sugar factory was an empty brick structure of just the right size and volume to be turned into a harmonious «music box». The building’s walls could be retained and a process of dematerialization would seek the perfect balance between transparency and acoustics. Through this process, the decommissioned factory was turned into a new concert hall not far from Parma’s city centre.

The creation of the Auditorium Paganini was an integral part of a larger plan to clean up and renew an area endowed with decommissioned factories east of the centre of Parma. An old park with fine tall trees added to the impetus for redeveloping this area and converting the rundown buildings into useful public ones.

The visual impact of the long parallel walls of the old Eridiana sugar refinery was a powerful one. They were also objects steeped in local history, laden with emotion and memories. So it was decided that the simple yet dramatic exposure of the essential structural elements of the factory – the two long main walls with their sequence of metal trusses – should become the basis of the project to convert the building into a space for music. This stripping back of the building called for the removal of the narrow front and back walls, as well as all of the transverse walls. Ancillary structures were also done away with, except a building right next to the auditorium, converted to house rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms and services for the Auditorium.

The empty body of the refinery proved to be, both in dimension and volume, a perfect «music box» with a frontal stage. New foundations were laid, the old walls consolidated and the roof was strengthened with trusses. Three floor to ceiling acoustic glass walls were installed to replace the old transverse partitions: two were set inwards from the ends to close the building on either side, while the third was put in place as a divider to separate the hall from the ample open entrance area on the south side, containing a box office and two level foyer. The transparency of the glass made the 90m length of the auditorium appear as a single spatial unit. Under the great pitched roof, which sits softly on the two long walls, is the 780-seat concert hall with a slightly sloped seating area. The large raised stage acts as a natural resonance chamber and has a peaceful backdrop of changing views of the park and its tall trees, beyond the glass wall. The natural acoustic property of the space is further perfected with cherry wood panels suspended from the rafters above the stage, glass deflectors set into the structure’s glass wall and wooden panels placed behind the orchestra.

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