Poised between play and reality

Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia as Architects

It belongs to us. It accompanies us. Perhaps it never leaves us, but inadvertently we never remember it. It coincides with the beginning, .... and it coincides with the end. Everything is in a pure state: feelings and emotions, actions and reactions, visions and imaginary thoughts. It is the world of children. It is something we would like to deal with all the time. It is the thing, in all its different forms, we would like everything in life to tend towards, because it is often serious, respectful and ironic. It teaches us not to take ourselves too seriously. It is very important. We are talking about play and what derives from: toys.


A place marking the present poised between the past and future. A space to be re-conquered and defended. Even from the near future. It looks simple and hence playful. Two objects, a perforated toy box and a large skittle. We need space, we want life’s games (functions) to be contagious, overlap and create continuity. We conquer space. Double. Above and below. We take a magical object out of the toy box. Zebra-striped. A public space comes to life around the hooves. A black tail allows me to climb out of the toy box. At night luminous protuberances light up the spot where the treasure is located. A carpet of games distracts me, suspends me in temporal space which holds me there, standing before the threshold, before the magical world of reality (the museum) and fiction (the theatre). Fairytales and other books follow me on my way. I have rediscovered the child in me. It had never left me. It is always there, it is always with us. It is in Cormano.


We are convinced that any project to transform an old-fashioned industrial building into a museum must involve more than just technical/functional modifications or alterations to the interiors, because it involves converting its function and hence its urban, social and cultural purpose. We would like to hold onto the abandoned factory’s architectural severity as a container, originally rationally designed to enclose a manufacturing space, while its new appearance, still that of a factory but now generating ideas and not manufacturing goods, requires it to open up to and belong to the outside, to the urban and social fabric of the city. The old structure has been re-incorporated in the project as a giant chest of drawers from which we have “drawn out” some new structures, as if they were ideal drawers/receptacles for toys. This will create a contrast between what was already there (and will be renovated with great simplicity) and the new addition seen as an expression of modern-day society. A new combination poised between conservation and change, “functionality” and “the imaginary”, capable of taking on a role suitable for a museum so that it can become a landmark for its surroundings.

TOYS AND ART FACTORY IN CORMANO

AREAPROGETTI srl as Publishers

The conversion project of an ancient industrial building into a museum must be conceived beyond the functional renovation and upgrading, as it involves the building change of use and consequently its urban, social and cultural role. We have preserved the disused factory's architectural severity as container, once rationally conceived to enclose a manufacturing space, while now its new appearance, still a factory but generating ideas and not any more manufactured goods, produces the opening and the belonging to the outer space, to the urban and social fabric of the city. The old structure has been re-interpretated during the design process as a huge chest of drawers, from whom new volumes have been drawn out as if they were ideal receptacles for toys. The strong contrast between the existing, carefully restored, and the new extension, intended as contemporary expression, is evident. A new whole, set between conservation and renovation, function and imagination, able to get the role proper for a museum and thus to became a landmark in the surroundings.


From the existing building, a cotton-mill of the 1900th, a new suspended volume is stretching out to cover the new public space.


The functions (toys museum, children library and theatre) are arranged inside the existing envelope, reinforced by a giant order of concrete walls conceived to strengthen the old factory and support the new volume. The conic skylights are getting out, as magicians' hat, from the museum box. At the ground floor level the hall, where the coffee bar is placed, brings into the main distributive system and to the theatre entrance. All along the hall, facing the square, a double height slice reminds the original size of the industrial space, whose height has allowed to create a mezzanine where the children library is located. At the last floor there are the museum exhibition, the workshops and other spaces for the museum and theatre activities. The entrance is in a sheltered area, covered by the museum box. This big outer hall crossed by the urban road is the way the building relates to the city. The new zebra-striped volume clearly declare indeed the new activities taking place in the cotton mill. In the sheltered area there are the two steel escape stairs of the library and of the museum that, running parallel to main facade, come out from the building and cross diagonally the outer space.


In the external areas the idea of giving the space a new social and cultural role has been carried on and it is expressed as the prosecution of the activities that take place inside but at the same time as a public space usable by the whole community. The urban graphic symbols are used to point out directions and areas and to emphasize the playful and recreational aspect related to children, the real users of the building.

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