The project for the new Rinascente department store in Palermo is powerful yet delicate at the same time. Underpinning this balance is the choice to preserve traces of the existing building by superimposing an opalescent façade on them, giving the appearance of a transparent building. This "glacial skin" is an architectural surface through which the old can still be seen, becoming one with the contemporary dimension. At night, the building is transformed into a bright, translucent lantern.
- La Rinascente SpA
- 1000 sqm
director of projects Flavio Albanese —
founder & partner
Flavio Albanese (1951), is founder and president of Asastudio. A self-taught man whose training did not follow the more usual academic route, he began to show interest in shapes and design as a very young boy, and he gradually added many strings to his bow in all sectors of architecture and design. He has held courses at the École Polytechinique Fédérale in Lausanne and at the Art Institute in Chicago (1980), at Yale University (1983), at the University of Architecture in Delft (2005), at the University of Florida (2006), at the Fundacion Proa de Buenos Aires (2008) and frequently at the most important Italian universities. He has also held two workshops at the international summer school of the Architecture School in Venice in 2009 and 2010. He was a member of the Confindustria Vicenza committee from 1998 to 2001, the Domus Academy Scientific Committee (2004-2005) and the MIart Committee of Honour (2009 and 2010), director of the Officina del Porto di Palermo (2006-2008), vice president of the Andrea Palladio Architecture Firms International Centre (2011-2015) and president of the Fondazione Teatro Comunale Città di Vicenza (2010-2016). From 2007 to 2010 he was asked to head Domus, the prestigious international architecture, design and contemporary art magazine. Together with his brother France, he founded Asastudio in Vicenza in 1987, whose projects have appeared in the most important architecture and design magazines. The Neores project was selected for the Mies van der Rohe Foundation European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, and Asastudio took part in Venice's Architecture Biennial in 2004 and 2006. Flavio is an avid reader and bibliophile (his library, which is open to the rest of the firm, contains more than 15,000 volumes) and he is a connoisseur and collector of contemporary art.
partner & executive director
Franco Albanese (born in Vicenza in 1958) has worked in the world of architecture and design since 1976. He graduated from the Architecture School in Venice in 1986 and the year after he founded Asastudio in Vicenza with his brother Flavio. Since then he has been the firm's CEO and Technical Manager, and this role has led him to playing his part in the creation, development and execution of the most important projects. As designer and operations manager he oversaw: the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Padua (1997); “Neores”, the production site and headquarters of Sinv Spa in Schio, Vicenza, (selected for the Mies van der Rohe Foundation European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2003); the project for the Town Hall of the Municipality of Grumolo delle Abbadesse, Vicenza (1999); “Morimondo 17”, the industrial reconversion of the Sinv spa premises in Milan (2000); the headquarters of Margraf in Chiampo, in the province of Vicenza (2006); and the redevelopment of the “Cava di Mursia” on Pantelleria (2010). He also supervised the design of the Mestre bypass (2004), the “Rocco Forte Verdura Resort” in Sciacca, in Sicily (2005), the expansion of Pantelleria Airport (2006) and the new Rinascente in Palermo (2007). In recent years, he has increasingly concentrated on reconverting urban industrial areas, which has become a key theme of Asastudio's philosophy.project administrator Massimiliano Marchica
Massimiliano Marchicateam Piero Corradin —
head of projects
Piero Corradin graduated from the Iuav Architecture School in Venice in 2002 and in the same year began working as an architect with Asastudio. Some of the most important projects Piero has worked on include the urban redevelopment of a quarter in Beijing to an OMA masterplan (2007), the new branch of Banca Popolare in Marostica (2006), the new headquarters of AFV Acciaierie Beltrame in Vicenza (2007), the bid for the new Exhibition Centre in Vicenza (2008), and the international bid “Recupero della cava di Mursia” on the island of Pantelleria (2010). In 2012 he took part in the Hybrid Tower project in Mestre (Venice) and in the design for the architectural layout of Verona's trolleybus system. In 2008 he was a tutor for PreVisioni, the international workshop on the future masterplan for Vicenza; and at the 2009 and 2010 summer workshops of the Iuav Architeecture School in Venice. Since 2014 Piero has been Asastudio's Head of Projects.
Onofrio joined Asastudio in 2005 and specialises in 3D wood models. He works in close contact with architects particularly in the project concept phase, and his models play a decisive role in verifying solutions. Onofrio has always loved the sea and sailing. He goes back to his city of Palermo as often as he can to return to the primary elements (water, sun, wind) and look after his boat.
- Images credits
- Sandro Scalia
The origins of the Via Roma block in Palermo date back to 19th century re-planning of the Sicilian capital, which installed a middle-class district in the ancient, bustling, working-class urban fabric. We are just a stone’s throw away from the Vucciria market, one of the city’s most famous and colourful sights.
Besides the eponymous church, one of the notable features of Piazza San Domenica is the fifth façade of the Palazzo Barone di Montalbano, swallowed up over time by a five-storey former Upim store dating back to the ’70s.
The project involved working on very different architectural elements and achieving a kind of balance that was both respectful and innovative.
To resolve this dilemma, the full range of rapid regeneration strategies was applied in order to restore and re-activate, to varying degrees, those architectural elements considered surplus to contemporary requirements.
So, while the façade of Palazzo Montalbano underwent painstaking restoration, the Upim building had a facelift, and a clear, opalescent “skin” was attached to the main façade in Via Roma.
The opaline covering with its transparent surfaces allows the old building to be glimpsed and becomes a kind of delicate veil covering its memory. In this way, the past is not denied, but framed and placed in a new context. The interiors of the building were pulled out and entirely modernised in keeping with the Rinascente department store’s design criteria, but it is on the top floors that the Rinascente shines in its urban setting: light pierces the restaurant area and its delightful terraces, which have been reclaimed and made functional, offering a spectacular view over the city.