Natali Building - La Spezia

Rigour and innovation

A high-quality tertiary project is emerging from the ruins of an abandoned industrial site. One of the highlights is an elegant building enclosed in a functional and visually striking ceramic envelope
Alfredo Zappa
Roberto Buratta
Studio Manfroni Architetti Associati
Year of completion

“Mia che te mio”, a popular saying that in La Spezia’s local dialect means “Look out, I’m watching you”, can be seen as a statement of pride in the city’s ability to heal old wounds in its urban fabric and to aspire to new levels of urban quality.
One notable example is a site that until just a few decades ago was occupied by a major oil refinery and now, thanks to a dedicated master plan, is home to a new tertiary centre at an advanced stage of construction.
The practice Studio Manfroni & Associati was commissioned to design several new service buildings located on the site. One of these is the Natali Building, a construction that combines measured compositional rigour based on control over form and matter and features some highly innovative envelope solutions.
The building extends over 4 floors, starting from a south-facing basement-level béton brut plinth which compensates for the slope of the site and contains the garages. From here a ramp leads up to the ground floor, which houses several spaces with independent accesses as well as the main north-facing entrance. This level is delimited by a perimeter sequence of pilotis designed to support the projecting floor above, a functional role in keeping with modernist principles.
The next three levels see a change in the composition of the building, which becomes a compact volume enclosing the tertiary spaces. The layout has an irregular, organic form that adapts to the functional and organisational constraints of the spaces. The individual units are distributed around a visually striking main vertical connecting body facing onto the lifts and stairways.
The entire construction is enclosed within a façade marked by the horizontal lines of the string courses and the random dynamism of the panels screening the glazed surfaces, which can be moved according to the needs of the individual office spaces. Thanks to the construction solution adopted, the relationship between solids and voids (infill panels and windows) can be altered according to the needs of the interior spaces without affecting the overall balance of the façade surface.
The envelope system consists of an insulated, ventilated package supported by a framework of metal struts, onto which the black ultra-thin Laminam Blend porcelain panels are mounted by means of an original system of rivets. Thanks to their large dimensions and low weight the same ceramic panels were chosen for the solar screens, creating an overall system of great integrity and effectiveness in terms of both performance and composition.
Caption: The envelope consists of a layer of ultra-thin porcelain panels used as both a ventilated façade and a mobile screening system shielding the glazed surfaces.

Laminam Blend
porcelain stoneware
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): <175 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant
Certifications and awards
Request Project info > Products Gallery >