Palazzo Calvi

Martinengo, Bergamo, Italy

The scope of intervention constitutes a valuable portion of Martinengo Municipal territory positioned within the old town centre and comprising Porta Garibaldi, Crocefisso road and the “vallo colleonesco” rampart.

The area falls within the perimeter of the territory regulated by the environmental law ex Legge 1497/1939, imposed by a ministerial decree of 24 July 1964.

The intrinsic value of the area lies, in general, in belonging to the urban building conglomerate within the medieval city walls, characterised by the coexistence of constitutive elements, significant in their historical, urban and environmental profile.

From a strictly architectural point of view, the complex of the Palazzo Calvi indeed constitutes an entity of an outstanding importance and an undeniable dominance.

Although the building complex has fallen in a grave state of disrepair and disuse, a recovery of the structural matrix and façades can presently still be carried out, in addition to the reconstruction of what has been lost beyond remediation.

The structure of the palazzo in its present state, in the aftermath of various transformation sequels from the beginning of the 19th century to the renovation of the façades toward the Colleone rampart in the early 20th century, represents a reference point in the new urban arrangement of the urban parcel: it is the pivotal point on which the design proposal hinges.

The complex of rustic building elements that were constructed in early 20th century has completely collapsed and does not possess particular value worthy of conservation, except for its belonging to the surrounding building fabric consolidated and characterised by a certain homogeneity through typology and morphology.

At the very north end of the urban parcel, vis-á-vis the Crocefisso road bridge crossing the Colleone canal, is a public building known as the “Centre for the elderly”. The General Regulatory Plan deems this building fit for a demolition level of intervention without reconstruction, for at least two motives; the first imputable to the linguistic and compositional discontinuity of the architecture with its context, as well as the poor construction quality of the building. The second motive is imputable to the natural predisposition of the cleared lot, being an open area that can be reclaimed and returned to the system of greenery along the Colleone rampart.

The characterising element of the fundamental territorial morphological structure of the historic Martinengo is doubtless represented by the ring road system, comprising the canal, town walls and public gardens.

An important portion of this ring road system is of particular interest to the project which gives due attention to the vulnerability of such context and the compatibility of the proposed transformations.

The enclosing wall system presently appears as an uncoordinated succession of wall segments built with diverse techniques.

Undeniable importance of the section of the wall corresponding to the façade of the Palazzo Calvi is to be acknowledged: this is the only section that has been preserved substantially intact.

Due regard of the contextual structural character and assonance with the morphological peculiarities of the place are the primary objectives of the design process.

The existing physique in its totality represents the objective condition of the design process.

The analyses of the status quo of the places and the objectives of the brief lead to the individuation of diverse modalities of intervention. The restoration interventions, the structural consolidation and the upgrade of public health building services pertain to the Palazzo Calvi complex, for which the preservation and consolidation of the vertical structural elements and, where possible the horizontal elements, has been planned. In cases where structures have collapsed or are dilapidated, as goes for a substantial part of floor and roof structures, provisions have been made for their reconstruction with compatible materials and techniques, thus also achieving adequate structural performance.

Generally, the project tends toward preservation of the structural elements, as well as of the internal distribution of spaces and the philological reconstruction of the original stairs. Any interventions that could alter the spatial organisation of this historic building have been excluded.

The intervention of building substitution refers to the new building designed for the area of gardens and rustic buildings. The new architecture, by its composition, typology and construction technology interprets and embodies the “spirit of the place”, and restores an inclusive rather than an exclusive relation with the “old” buildings. By completing the urban elevation along the Colleone wall it establishes a relation with the old palazzo through a construction of symmetry whose axis is represented by the axis of the existing little house of romantic overtones. The adjacent low volume, crowned with a balustrade, is of course reproposed, with some adaptations, of same dimensional and architectonic proportions. With this compositional process a dialog is introduced between the old and the new architecture. The conformation to the local area and the surrounding built environment dictates the arrangement of the new building plan.

The façade toward the town wall is characterised by the regular rhythm articulated by the solid wall alternated with glazed surfaces recessed from the building perimeter.

From the morphological and compositional viewpoint the new architecture draws from a personal formal and figurative repertoire that discerns, from the grid of distinctive characters of the context, the compositional materials for the design.

Articulation of new volumes defines, at ground level, a covered walkway and a courtyard that is to be acquired as public heritage, thus creating a new and qualifying succession of urban spaces between the park and via Crocefisso.

The open outdoor spaces redesign pertains to the system of embankments along the Colleone canal, in addition to the sequence of spaces and walkways, public and private, delimited by the buildings of the urban parcel. The project pursued the important objective of conceptualising the complete continuity of the green areas along the Colleone wall, from Garibaldi gate to via Crocefisso and the requalification of this space as a significant place of encounter.

The definition and the realisation of the park conjunctively aspire to the canonical guidelines of the Italian and English styles, in search of a harmonic fusion of their respective particularities.

From the beginning of the 20th century the garden of the palazzo has obeyed the precise choices of embellishment and style in the disposition and the choice of tree species and their conformation.

After decades of neglect and abandonment a large number of vegetative elements as well as of the historic imprint of the area have been lost.

The project tends to repropose an interpretation in a contemporary key of cultural values inherent to the garden as a place of encounter between man and nature and between art and nature, also in relation to transformation from a private garden to a public park.

Lastly, the project introduces an important betterment element of the new urban space: the water. An element rich with meanings and exceptional values for mankind, the presence of the water intends to newly evoke sensorial enjoyment of public space, attributing ulterior meanings to its being a simple place of transit.


Massimiliano Gamba

Dimensional data

Intervention area = 6,930 m2

Status quo: volume = 14,580 m3

Final arrangement: volume = 17,000 m3


Project: 2005

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