Nuova sede Croce Rossa Italiana, Comitato locale di Scandiano (RE)

A building reflecting light and values

The founding principles of the Red Cross live on in the new headquarters in Scandiano
Federica Andreini
Lorenzo Rapisarda, Luca Monti, Marco Borghi (Studio M2R Architettura)
Year of completion

The history of the Red Cross dates back to 24 June 1859 when Swiss businessman Jean Henri Dunant watched the battle of Solferino from a hilltop and recounted his observations in his famous book A Memory of Solferino, subsequently translated into 20 languages. He described the horrors of that final engagement of the second War of Italian independence fought between the Franco-Piedmontese and Austrian armies, which left more than 100,000 men dead and wounded on the battlefield, and condemned the fact that the wounded did not receive adequate aid due to the absence of a neutral relief agency. His efforts led to the founding of the Red Cross, and after a series of complex negotiations, the fledgling organisation’s neutrality was enshrined in the Geneva Convention of August 1864. Between 1863 and 1866 a total of 17 countries joined the new organisation. Fast forward to the present day and we find the same founding principles of the Red Cross in an almost two million euro project to build a new headquarters in the town of Scandiano in northern Italy, a strategic location from where it can operate across the province of Reggio Emilia. Just as in the nineteenth century, the project involved the contributions of a number of different players, including the Emilia-Romagna regional government, the Fondazione Manodori, the Credito Cooperativo bank which granted a project loan, and the municipality of Scandiano which provided the land for construction. The project was awarded to the Reggio Emilia-based practice M2R and was completed in approximately 18 months. The 1600 square metre built area is divided into three blocks to give independent but interconnecting spaces to the three different organisations that will use the building (the Red Cross, the Civil Defence and the Associazione Buon Samaritano). The three blocks were built using a prefabricated structural system in three volumes of different heights visible from any angle. The building consists of a single road-level floor with a glazed window running around the perimeter, above which there is a reflecting ceramic cladding mounted on the ventilated façade. The chosen tile is Diamante Boa Vista Grey from Casalgrande Padana. Each module in the Diamante Boa Argento series consists of four intersecting planes that converge to form a single vertex in at least four different positions, projecting from the plane of installation to create a rippling geometric pattern that changes according to the refraction of light. Those who are familiar with cuts of gemstones will recognise it as a simplified version of the rose cut, adapted according to architectural requirements. But because ceramic is an opaque material, the light is not actually refracted internally but is instead reflected from the outside. The result is an alternation of pale and dark, light and shadow, creating a vibrant, dynamic surface that interacts with the environment and reflects non-linear images of its surroundings. A product of this kind makes it easy for designers to create a customised texture and compose moving, vibrant patterns and designs that give the buildings a strong identity. As for potential applications in architecture and interior design, it is easy to imagine using it on both ceilings and walls to create a kaleidoscopic effect that captures the gaze. The colour of the finish defines this relationship, forming the canvas onto which the image of the environment will be projected. The overall appearance of the modules reinvents the concept of texture, because it is proposed not just as an application pattern but in terms of the mimetic capacity of the material. Each colour has a different mental association: at times it is reminiscent of a fabric, at others a dragon’s skin or an item of jewellery. This speaks volumes about the capacity of the tile installation project to create a harmonious image without the visual interruption of concave and convex angles that delimit the structure as it extends across the ground and in height. In a building that needs to be as functional as possible to facilitate the aid and rescue work of the 500 volunteers operating in the municipality of Scandiano, a surface cladding of this kind enhances architectural dignity and demonstrates that ceramic has plenty of potential for development outside its traditional field of floor and wall tiling. Projects like this teach us the importance of research and design efforts aimed at developing materials in terms of forms, applications and intrinsic technical characteristics, and that installation must be seen as an opportunity rather than an application limit of an age-old material. The fact that ceramic has been in existence for such a long time and has continued to undergo development demonstrates that the material’s intrinsic value goes well beyond its most basic use. In this project, it is evident that the architectural volumes are contained and enclosed in a form that creates unity and harmony. The Amazzonia Dragon Grey tile collection in 30×60 cm modules was chosen for the flooring in the interiors and the area adjacent to the windows. The decision to use ceramic tile in this project was based on the material’s high level of performance in both interiors and exteriors, while Casalgrande Padana was chosen in keeping with the overall project philosophy of using locally made products. This concept, which aims to facilitate integration of the project into the urban context, is also reflected in the design of a system of greenery based on the use of native species and the planting of trees suited to the building’s location.

Casalgrande Padana, Amazzonia and Diamante Boa series
porcelain stoneware
30x60, 60x60 cm
Dragon Grey and Argento
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
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