Centro Culturale di Torino Italy

Keith Williams’ premiated project for the Centro Culturale di Torino was the only one from a UK architect selected into the final round of this major international competition. The 40,000m2 project housed the new city library and a 1200 seat concert hall.

Turin is a city enveloped on three sides by the distant Alps. Its key buildings include secular and religious architecture alongside a large number of individual private palazzi. The Centro Culturale project was located in the former industrial quarter on the site of the defunct Nebiolo Company fabrication plant. The project was developed not as a single building but as a new united complex, with the library and concert hall at its heart. The internal planning and interconnections allow the grouping to function as if contained within a single building envelope, yet distinguish between the identity of each separate part.

The Library Cube operates at several levels, functioning not only as a major scale city library and arts complex, but also fulfils a wider urban role. Rising up through its atrium, a grand public stair, connects the new street level forecourt to a public piazza at the top of the building. The rooftop garden piazza was intended to become a new destination point, giving Turin a totally new type of urban space, largely unique in world cities, granting spectacular views over the city and the Alps. The vast vertical Atrium was intended as the prime conduit for the people accessing both the rooftop piazza and those moving within the secure library circulation system. The Library floor levels are laid out before the visitor as a physical expression of layers of knowledge, all instantly visible and recognisable from the entrance point.

The Library Cube, the architectural centrepiece, is seen as a contemporary reinterpretation of the Torinese Renaissance palazzo form, but a palazzo dedicated to the common ownership of knowledge and culture. This idea is embodied in the transparent expression of the public faces of the building, which through its materiality and interplay of natural and artificial light, will appear as a glowing crystalline form.

The 1200 seat concert hall is set back within the plan arrangement, and separated from the Library Cube and Atrium by a new raised garden court. The foyer within the restored former Nebiolo building courtyard, itself encased in a new glazed structure, was to form a voluminous internal space to stage theatrical or concert performances.

At the heart of the scheme’s organisation, was its ability to engage with the public domain, encouraging the visitor to experience all aspects of the new complex whether as inquisitive child, scholar or interested visitor, and engage with those who merely wish to view the city from the entirely new dimension of the building’s rooftop piazza.

Promoter : Comune di Torino
Total Area 40,000m2 of which Library = 32,500m2