Casalgrande Padana’s new Creative Centre to rise in Rome
The Casa Baldi restoration project – which will house Casalgrande Padana‘s third creative hub at the service of creativity, culture and architecture – is now at an advanced stage.
|Casa Baldi 1960|
Our creative centres are incubators of ideas
Casalgrande Padana’s Creative Centres are open to industry professionals and go beyond the traditional idea of a showroom. They are more like a crossroad between ceramics and projects, combining the exhibition aspect with communication, technical information, and a series of initiatives in the field of architecture, design, and production.
The first Creative Centre was built next to the Casalgrande production site according to the project by Cerri Associati Engineering. A few years later, the Milan Creative Centre was opened in Foro Buonaparte, becoming a reference point for the architects’ community (not only in Milan) and demonstrating the success of this formula.
|Creative Centre Casalgrande (Reggio Emilia)||Creative Centre Casalgrande (Reggio Emilia)|
|Creative Centre Milan||Creative Centre Milan|
The various activities, appointments, and training sessions hosted at the creative centres have involved world-renowned architects and designers.
And now, to meet the growing demand across Italy, Casalgrande Padana has decided to open a new Creative Centre in Rome.
The place chosen to house the centre has a significant meaning and is an opportunity to open Casa Baldi – a beautiful building designed by Paolo Portoghesi and built between 1959 and 1961 – to the community of designers and architects.
Casalgrande Padana has entrusted the restoration and repurposing project to Paolo Portoghesi, who has developed a series of solutions that are coherent with the original building and enhance the architectural and functional value of its new intended use.
Come visit our Creative Centres to experiment, innovate, and create!
Casalgrande Creative Centre
Via Statale 467, 101
42013 Casalgrande (RE)
Tel. +39 0522 990730
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, from 8.30 to 12.30 and from 14.00 to 18.00
Milan Creative Centre
Foro Buonaparte, 74,
20121 Milano MI
Tel +39 366 855 0103
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, from 10.30 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 17.30
Rome Creative Centre Grand Opening: 24 May 11.00 am
Via Sirmione 19
Tel +39 +331 6873931
Open by appointment
Casa Baldi: an intentionally ambiguous building
An innovative experimental research manifesto towards a new language linked to places and history. A project that, after many years, still poses the unresolvable matter of what modernity means in architecture.
A necessary preamble to introduce Casa Baldi, the “small” residential building on a hill along the Via Flaminia in Rome designed by Paolo Portoghesi and completed back in 1961. This building represented an innovative architectural manifesto of the time, which stimulated a debate that even landed on the pages of the New York Times.
A lot has been written about Casa Baldi over the years. Paolo Portoghesi himself was called upon to unveil the elements and choices that were more difficult to comprehend.
We met architect Paolo Portoghesi to ask him how this unique building came to life and about the ideas and guidelines of its repurposing project sixty years after he drew the first sketches.
Casa Baldi 1960
Casa Baldi 1960
Professor Portoghesi, tell us how the Casa Baldi project all began and what it means to have free rein from a creative point of view
Gian Vittorio Baldi was a man of culture. He was a renowned film director. He experimented with Cinema Verité and produced the first few films by Pier Paolo Pasolini. We had met while filming a documentary for which he had asked me to do the voiceover. At that time, he wanted to build a new house in Rome, but he wanted it to be different from anything else around. So, he told me “consider yourself free. My only two requests are that I don’t want to spend too much (no more than 10 million lire) and I want two bedrooms and a study.” At first, I thought I would take care of the distribution-related aspects. But after visiting the plot, I was fascinated by the situation, and I tried to give an answer to an extraordinary place located on a fifty-metre hill on the Via Flaminia with a tufa cliff right in front of the landscape where the battle between Constantine and Maxentius took place. Right next to it are the fascinating Roman remains of a tomb that, withered by water and time, has lost its original appearance to transform itself into some sort of sculpture. So, the project stemmed from a very special client, a limited budget, and a truly evocative place.
At the time, you already had the chance to experiment as an architect, but with Casa Baldi, there’s all the creative enthusiasm of the new generations. Some sort of manifesto.
Let’s just say that, in this building, there’s everything I’ve always tried to do in my life, i.e. recovering history in all its nuances by analysing places through the lens of modern sensitivity. Therefore, the project has drawn intentionally from the research of the De Stijl movement and, in particular, from Van Doesburg, Van Eesteren, Rietveld and, at the same time, from Borromini’s buildings, which I had studied with great attention. It represents my attempt to bind two completely different phenomena, which, in my opinion, had something in common, i.e. questioning the very basis of architecture. It was basically my suggestion for a new idea of architecture linked to places and history that was also part of the revolution brought about by the Modern Movement.
How does it feel to be working on this building again after so many years?
Well, the main risk for a building like this is to be crushed or even destroyed by transformation. During the 1970s and 80s, the second owner had already made some interventions in the basement I didn’t agree with. But the idea of transforming it certainly fascinated me. If a building can’t continue to serve its purpose, it could be interesting to change its intended use. Actually, this is one of the main achievements of Postmodernism. In reusing existing structures, we could understand how a building is not as bound to its origin as functionalists thought it was. Quite the contrary. There are buildings that work just fine even after radically changing their intended use.
What are the choices based on which this repurposing project is developing?
Well, I’ve thought of two hypotheses. The first one focuses on maintaining the living room – the most interesting space of the house – as it is. The second, on covering the walls with Casalgrande Padana ceramic tiles to meet the client’s need to have as much exhibition space as possible. All this, using criteria that enhance the value of space and include elements that weren’t there, such as the colour and shiny ceramic surfaces, which are so different from plaster. On the other hand, this is a showroom after all. Putting these objects in the middle of the room would have meant denying space fluidity, which is the most crucial element of the house. Therefore, while the smaller rooms provide the freedom to display things, in the main rooms – especially on the first floor – the aim is to keep the spatial composition and fluidity untouched. On the ground floor, things are a bit different. The idea is to arrange the ceramic tiles on display so that indirect natural light can accentuate them. It’s the same idea that, at the time, had defined the relationship between the walls of the envelope, which detach from one another, creating glazed slits. In fact, Casa Baldi’s windows are not “holes in the wall” but the result of an approximation process that avoids any contact and confusion. Proximity intended as desire. I have tried to reproduce all this on the ground floor, with the idea of placing the large ceramic tiles in such a way as to form a curve interrupted where needed by the grazing light coming from the windows. If you think about it, this discovery dates back to the Baroque age.
A solution that can lead to a great involvement of visitors.
Yes, this solution can give interesting results. People can choose the material based on texture, colour, surface vibration. What’s more, they can see how it interacts with space. A brave choice that, if we can control in the combination of materials, as I hope we will, can be very interesting indeed. Then, of course, there is so much more to this house. Other purposes might be found in the future. That’s why it’s so important to keep this fundamental aspect – i.e. its value as a protest against the architecture of indifference, of quantity, or simply calculation – alive. In my opinion, this fit-out can safeguard this aspect because it will give so many architects, who had only heard about Casa Baldi, the opportunity to see it in real life.
Read all the insights in issue 36 of Percorsi in Ceramica.
Paolo Portoghesi was among the main protagonists of the architectural debate in the second post-war period.
He was born in Rome on 2 November 1931 and graduated in 1957. He is an architect, theorist, historian and professor of architecture, member of the Accademia dei Lincei, President Emeritus of the National Academy of San Luca, and an Emeritus of La Sapienza University.
His professional activity, academia, and commitment to major issues have always intertwined. His aim has always been to pursue a continuity that can create a critical relationship between knowledge, memory, and the values of historical tradition and contemporary reality, going beyond the commonplace of modernity.
From 1962 to 1966, he taught history of criticism at La Sapienza University in Rome. From 1967, he taught history of architecture at the Polytechnic of Milan, and he was dean of the Faculty of Architecture from 1968 to 1976. From 1995 to 2007, he taught Design at the faculty of Architecture Valle Giulia at La Sapienza University, where he is an Emeritus Professor and a tenured professor of Geoarchitecture.
He is also a former President of the architectural section of the Venice Biennale (1979-82). The Strada Novissima he designed at the Corderie dell’Arsenale for the 1980 Biennale, involving 19 international architects, started the whole debate on the Postmodern movement.
He has published many essays and volumes on Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architecture and on contemporary issues. He also founded several journals, including Controspazio, Eupalino, and Abitare la Terra.
He has an extremely long list of projects carried out in Italy and worldwide in the fields of residential and tertiary architecture, places of worship, education, culture, and urban fabric regeneration. Famous examples include Casa Baldi in Rome, the Church of the Holy Family in Salerno, the Mosque and Muslim cultural centre in Rome, the Academy of Fine Arts in L’Aquila, the ENEL residential complex in Tarquinia, the new pavilion of the Tettuccio Spa in Montecatini, the Politeama theatre in Catanzaro, and the restoration of Piazza San Silvestro in Rome.