Claudio Marrocchi, Fabio Capanni
Alessandro Ciampi, © Fabio Capanni
The extraordinary industrial growth that the city of Prato had in the late post-war period, mainly due to the textile sector, prompted a deep transformation in the urban settlement of the city and of the small neighbouring villages.
The sites belonging to houses, used so far as orchards and gardens, have been progressively saturated in order to obtain laboratories and warehouses for textile factories, according to a logic of occupation of space that proceeded from outside to inside.
Because of the recent crisis of the textile industry of Prato, the buildings within those lots have become subjects of a growing number of conversions, predominantly in residential estates.
In Mezzana, near Prato, the plot in which Gheri's House stands had this same fate, and the pre-existent structure from which the new dwelling was obtained was once a small workshop, contained in that same site and consisting of a small size prefabricated building, with concrete pillars, precast concrete wall panels and steel reticular beams to support a lightweight roof made of Eternit panels.
The logic of expansion and transformation of the city, that consisted in building inside a predetermined enclosure defined by the boundaries of the lot, was borrowed at the architectural scale to build Gheri House: here, a new limit, defined by the perimeter walls, holds within itself some empty volumes, appropriately arranged in order to partially saturate the hollow space of the old workshop.
The features of space and construction of the old warehouse were left unchanged as well as the principle of the open-space within which, as if they were boxes of unsold goods, take place the blocks containing the service rooms at the ground floor and the bedrooms upstairs, separated by the floor slab, deliberately left in sight as a memory of the ancient storage shelving.
The new copper roof follows the curved geometry of the old warehouse and is supported by a new built portal in raw concrete that frames the south front of the building.
On this same front the pre-existent concrete panels are replaced by wide windows, characterized by large plaster embrasures, aimed to establish a visual relation with the orchard behind and designed to embody a domestic nature based on a deep connection with traditional figures of Tuscan minor architecture, in the effort to lead back to the site what from that same site waived because of unprecedented trade and economic impulses.