Documentation Center for The History of Fascism

-2nd semester - Thematic Studio - Fall 2019-20 

-In the 21st Century, How can a Fascism Documentation Center be designed at its Birth Place?

-Professors: Pier Paolo Tamburelli, Fabrizia Berlingieri, Alessandro Carrera  -Group Members: Patrick Ormsby, Kevin Prenna

A documentation center's role can be straightforward, but in this application – a documentation center for the history of fascism – it becomes more complex, especially as we consider its place in Milan.  The inherent dialectic between a public building's role and the uncomfortable mark of fascism was resolved in the design through a dialectic process.

Through a typological study of the archive function, we researched precedent examples where archive buildings – which are typically enclosed and private – are connected to public spaces within the building.  For example, the Reims archive brings the public space into the foyer of the building.

We also analyzed the building within the context of Lazzaretto, which has a strong gridded layout, which is run through by Viale Tunisia, a direct connection between three economic areas of Milan – Corso Buenos Aires, Piazza Della Repubblica, and Porta Nuova.  All these areas are linked together by public transport.

Hence, the building's massing was derived from the presence of public spaces within the building and how it could be accessed from the major thoroughfare of Viale Tunisia.  The building's key feature is the monumental stair, which links directly from the street to the open terrace on the first floor.  Immediately, this area of the building is completely open to the public and provides transparency to the building's functions.

This effect of “opening” of the building for public use became the building's major design operation, contrasting with the private archive spaces. This operation occurs on multiple levels – creating a loggia, a rooftop bar, and a viewing platform. 

The design of the façade reinforces this arrangement of spaces through the application of a square grid structure.  The façade material – marble – reinforces the thickness of the gridlines.  The structural system is a steel frame, which contrasts with the marble cladding.  In the “openings” of the building, we reveal the steel frame structure to highlight the paradoxical lightness of the building.

Besides, the building is completely enclosed without windows, except in the “opening” spaces, where windows provide natural light to the building's inside.  The duality of light and enclosed spaces reinforces the relationship between the building's archive and public functions.