Architecture in solidarity: Casalgrande Padana and TAMassociati

Jan. 14, 2017

Architecture in solidarity: Casalgrande Padana and TAMassociati

Casalgrande Padana and the TAMassociati architecture studio have teamed up on a number of projects for medical facilities, paediatric centres and hospitals over the years, with our porcelain stoneware tiles used in facilities such as the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, the Emergency Paediatric Centre in Bangui, the Emergency Paediatric Centre in Nyala, South Darfur and the Goderich Surgical and Paediatric Centre in Sierra Leone.

These were hugely complex projects to develop and manage, and as such great care was taken when it came to selecting the construction technology, parts and materials to be adopted. All of the internal floorings and coverings were produced using Casalgrande Padana porcelain stoneware tiles from the Technic collection, with the Nebraska colour and 30x30 cm format chosen. The Secura non-slip finish was selected for all tiles used in corridors and rooms, while a polished finish was chosen for the operating theatres. This particular collection of ceramic tiles was designed for settings where they would be placed under significant stress - in public and service buildings, for example. TAMassociati opted for the hi-tech, environmentally friendly products in the collection on account of their superior technical attributes, which mean that the tiles could satisfy the project requirements in terms of reliability and functionality, guaranteeing optimum hygiene and safety as well as elevated levels of resistance to physical and chemical stresses such as footfall, wear and tear, impacts, abrasions, fire and temperature changes.


Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery The desert rose

This medical complex, which was constructed for Gino Strada’s NGO Emergency, is built around two enormous mango trees which represent the symbolic heart of the centre. The smaller pavilions are arranged around a courtyard, according to the traditional local construction style.

The Salam Centre includes three surgery hubs, facilities for 63 beds, medical rooms, diagnostic laboratories and hospitality and assistance areas. A key speciality medical facility, the Salam Centre is capable of providing treatment and services to over 50,000 patients per year from Sudan and the neighbouring countries. The centre also hosts information and training activities for local medical and healthcare professionals and has become a model of excellence that has prompted the creation of similar hospitals elsewhere in continental Africa.

Designing a hospital is one of the most complex branches of the discipline, but for the Salam Centre that meant getting to grips with feasibility, technical approaches and the economic reality of a highly remote place. The harsh environmental conditions, with temperatures in excess of 40°C for long periods of the year, the pounding sunlight and the frequent sandstorms meant the designers had to develop specific solutions for cooling, shading, thermal insulation and filtration. The aim was to find extremely simple yet effective solutions, in some cases inspired by local traditions (such as in the case of mashrabiyas, i.e. passive cooling systems). This strategy provided the facility with not only the best technology possible, but also the most affordable and easy to manage solutions in terms of local materials and human resources.

The project’s unique features and success in satisfying all the complex requirements at hand earned the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Photo: TAMassociati


Bangui, Central African Republic: Emergency Paediatric Centre


After building and launching the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan, Emergency decided to build a network of satellite clinics in nine neighbouring countries. In addition to their own unique architectural features, all of the clinics were to have a standard, practical layout consisting of a covered surface of approximately five hundred square metres, housing a cardiology clinic, a short-stay unit and a diagnostics unit, all for paediatric patients.

The first of these clinics was built in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. This Paediatric Centre offers assistance to children up to the age of 15, as well as providing educational courses on hygiene and sanitation.

The complex features one-storey buildings situated around a central patio courtyard, as explained by Raul Pantaleo: “Over the years, we’ve found a reasonable compromise between protection and opening. In the hospitals built in Darfur, Sudan, and Sierra Leone, windows had to be small so that shade could be added easily and to minimise the number of shards generated in the event of an explosion. On the other hand, the walls had be thick to protect against impacts and it was important for the building to open inwards so that it could be shut down if necessary. We’ve put the same principles into practice in Bangui as well. In the opening in the fence, we saw real poetry in a symbol of the life and joy the building wanted to represent - in spite of everything.”

A great deal of attention went into choosing materials and solutions capable of optimising the building’s passive thermal capacity. The clinic has high-insulation brick walls, a roof with a natural ventilation system made from a wood and corrugated sheet metal structure, low-E glass windows and sun shading systems to minimise radiation and the subsequent thermal load on the outer structure.

Yet this focus on technology and operative frugality does not come at the cost of the architecture of the building or the element of poetry involved. The courtyard, for example, is home to a series of stunning animal sculptures made from woven rattan by local craftsmen, whose work brings solace and entertainment to the young patients of the centre.


Photo: Raul Pantaleo


Nyala, South Darfur: Emergency Paediatric Centre


The capital of South Darfur, Nyala, is a city with a population of over one and a half million people, the majority refugees fleeing from war who live in seven camps in the suburbs.

The Paediatric Centre is open 24 hours a day and provides healthcare services for children up to 14 years old, as well as hygiene and health education activities for families, and theoretical/practical training for medical staff from the country. It’s also part of a regional paediatrics and heart surgery programme whose aim is to identify patients to undergo surgery at the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum and then carry out post-surgery follow-ups.

Building in an area that has just emerged from a lengthy war posed a great ethical and technological challenge for TAMassociati. “The Nyala paediatrics clinic was developed under extreme conditions, leading us to decide the most effective strategy would be one based on the principle of simplicity, though not at the expense of quality standards,” explain TAMassociati. The result was an impressive project that combined innovative and traditional strategies in terms of cooling and recycling technologies, using local raw materials, integrating the complex with the surrounding area and energy saving. And all of this was achieved while maintaining an architectural style centred around natural colours, materials and elements.

“Our project has shown the potential for a sustainable and innovative concept of modernity for South Darfur and further afield,” explain TAMassociati. “It’s a process of reduction, minimisation and optimisation linked to the broader concept of degrowth.” The result is a project that combines the need for high technological standards with the principles of simplicity, beauty and environmental sustainability.

The complex is built around an enormous baobab tree and adopts the principles of Arab housing, minimising the façades exposed to the sun to create a shady courtyard. The reduced height of the buildings means the complex doesn’t feel much like a hospital at all, helping the young patients to feel more at home by regarding them not just as patients to be treated, but also as people who must be shown the respect that is often denied to them in everyday life.

The clinic is a very simple building, reflecting traditional construction styles. The load-bearing structures are made of thick bricks (made in Nyala’s nearby furnaces) with a built-in ventilated air chamber designed to ensure a comfortable temperature, something further aided by the thermal lag in the day-night cycle. The roof is made according to a traditional local system consisting of brick vaults called jagharsch (harsch in Arabic means “arch”). A secondary sheet metal roof protects it from the sun, creating a ventilated air chamber. In addition to these solutions, the project also pursued environmental wellbeing by limiting external openings (the few present are appropriately shaded), adopting a sun shielding system of woven bamboo shades for the façades, ensuring appropriate ventilation and cooling through natural flows. Together, these solutions helped significantly reduce the use of cooling systems and - more importantly - cut the cooling capacity required to air-condition the clinic, slashing construction, maintenance and management costs.

Photo: Massimo Grimaldi


Freetown, Goderich, Sierra Leone: Surgical and Paediatric Centre

Photo: Massimo Grimaldi

In order to accommodate the fast-growing demand for healthcare services, in 2002 the Emergency Surgical and Paediatric Centre in Goderich was expanded with the construction of a new paediatric clinic. In 2003, this was joined by a new paediatric ward with 20 beds to accommodate the most seriously ill children, while in the autumn of 2010 work began to expand and renovate the entire complex and open facilities for emergency surgery, traumatology and surgery to treat congenital or acquired malformations.

The Goderich hospital came to play an indispensable role and - as a result - once the war-provoked crisis was over, between 2012 and 2014 steps were taken to create a new surgery unit, complete with three theatres and a new intensive care unit, in addition to renovations to the emergency room. The aim of the work was to ensure optimum quality and adhere to all the healthcare standards of a modern surgical unit while creating a particularly simple facility.




TAMassociati: the profession of ethics

Founded in 1996 by Massimo Lepore, Raul Pantaleo and Simone Sfriso, TAMassociati brings together industry experts and professionals active in the fields of architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, community architecture, graphics and social communication. With main headquarters in Venice and additional offices in Bologna, Trieste and Paris, TAMassociati mainly works with public institutions, non-profit organisations and private clients. It is known around the world for its projects and initiatives spanning socially minded design, cooperation and inclusion, the third sector, the solidarity economy and healthcare facilities (working with Emergency, amongst others) in some of the most problem-hit areas of the southern hemisphere.

TAMassociati’s many works include the offices of Banca Etica, healthcare facilities for Emergency in Africa and public spaces and parks in San Giorgio Piacentino, La Spezia, Venice, Anzola dell'Emilia, Casalecchio di Reno.

The success of TAMassociati’s work so far is laid bare by the practice’s regular features in the leading architectural magazines and numerous invitations to take part in exhibitions including the Triennale di Milano and the Venice Biennale, as well as the many international awards it has won over the years: the Gold Medal for Italian Architecture in 2012; the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2013; the Giancarlo Ius Gold Medal in 2013; the Curry Stone Design Prize in 2013, the Zumtobel Group Award in 2014 and the Italian Architect of the Year award in 2014.

TAMassociati’s most well-known works include the central headquarters of the Banca Popolare Etica in Padua, the Bangui Paediatric Centre (Central African Republic), the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, the Container Medical Compound and Prayer and Meditation Pavilion in Khartoum (Sudan), the NyalaPaediatric Centre in South Darfur (Sudan) and the Paediatric Centre in Port Sudan (Sudan). TAMassociati’s work fuels the belief that a different approach is possible - one that combines social values and scientific expertise in terms of sustainability and ecology, ensuring respect for human beings and the environment, while refusing to compromise on architecture and on using architecture to improve the quality of daily life in even the most difficult places.

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