QUARTIERI PARCO CĄ D'ORO, Mestre, Venice, Italy , OBRA Architects, Beijing, Korea and New York
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Quartieri Parco Ca D'oro

3rd Prize Winner

Like domestic partners coexisting in interdependency, ecstatic joy and the occasional burst of frustrated violence (since the city or "life" is not all good), the residential quarters proposed here envision a new form of urbanity dependent on the cohabitation of opposites: city and forest. This opposition will unfold into a range of inhabitable spaces spanning from the very small personal and domestic to that large enough to be considered urban infrastructure. The small spaces of the apartments at QUARTIERI PARCO CĄ D'ORO are psychologically enlarged by their adjacency to the proposed squares and become part of a tightly nested spatial sequence interconnecting the entire complex. The volumetric arrangement defines, in addition to the squares and interconnecting passages, roof terraces overlooking the public spaces below. These terraces are planted with local grass, and like the roof of Le Corbusier's monastery in La Tourette, its maintenance and aesthetic intent are left to the ministrations of the passing birds.

Courtyards, passages, terraces and stairs define a vast urban fabric that would conceptually cover the entire site, but for the intervention of the adjacent park to the east which, crossing the highway, cuts through these systems with interstitial currents of flowing greenery that define the proposed site plan. These currents of thick foliage convey shade and coolth through the proposed urban fabric while becoming also the vehicle of movement through the different quarters. In this way the residents can inhabit a complex environment of light and shadow falling down on its mineral geometry and also interlaced by curbing strips of park. Life occurs in the park and in the city, without distinction or segregation.

At the conceptual "cut" of the urban fabric, the facades thus exposed to the green of these fluid interstitial parks are defined as a translucent wall to maximize the feeling of living by the park. The wall, developed by our team in consultation with Transsolar Energietechnik, is composed of two layers of 3 cm translucent ppolycarbonate and 30 cm of Okapane® translucent insulation with one to three fiberglass sun filter interlayers, depending upon orientation. A polypropylene honeycomb micro-filter can be added in the souther exposures. This filter basically a mesh with a 1:3 ratio between opening and material depth, would allow sun radiation in the winter while blocking it out in the summer.

When "cut" by the park, the housing volumes reveal the liquid surface of a translucent facade receptive to capturing the shadows of trees and projecting them into the spaces of the home. At a time of worldwide economic hardship, this provides an inexpensive wallpaper substitute for those inclined to favor inhabitation in the presence of ornamental floral patterns, with the added advantage that the everchanging shadows will never tire us with the relentless sameness of traditionally printed wall ornamentation. Each QUARTIER provides opportunity to choose an appropriate way of living for one's personal propensities. The horizontal plaza and terrace-bound existence proposed by the one- to three-storey volumes within the sectors is complemented by the possibility of opting for an apartment on the 60 m tall towers with panoramic views of Mestre and the surrounding countryside: the airborne versus the earthbound.

Towers are of a simple, almost circumspect exterior design: every apartment has a balcony and these are all concentrated on the short sides of the volume, while the long facades are treated with a simple grid of 1 x 1.5 m windows that only deviate from this order by an occasional window omission, a silence on a regular beat. The quiet expression of the tower exteriors contain a complex stepped section that allows a compressed vertical circulation core and a significant reduction of wasted corridor space in the plan. This is achieved by continuously stepping the slabs so as to allow apartment access at every stair landing and effectively creating a theoretically infinite slab spiral ascending the length of the tower. There are three different versions of this system that, by varying the number and size of steps, define apartments of different types including step-free handicap apartments. In its typical configuration, the tower slab coils around the core with six 50 cm steps per revolution and defining an interlocking sequence of one-level and duplex apartments in a pattern that repeats itself every 9 meters (3 floors). This system allows a very efficient tower that can then assume very slender proportions (10 x 17 x 60), allowing good overall natural ventilation and sun exposure to all apartments and also low shadow impact on the residential areas below. The slender tall towers then become an efficiently sustainable way to inhabit and, associated with each one of the QUARTIERS, markers of identity and orientation throughout the complex.

To achieve the necessary economies of scale essential to the development of social housing projects, the proposal includes a rigid series of typological elements that can be recombined serially to define different size and configuration of apartments. The perimeter of the possible units is relatively free to change with the curving walls created by the park, while the standardized components of the interior, coherently grouped around the mechanical shaft, can vary to create the multiplicity of conditions. The standard elements are: bathroom, power room, kitchen, storage closets, stairs, and bedrooms. The living rooms, dining rooms and sometimes the single bedrooms are defined as the space lying between the standardized elements and the perimeter walls.

The project proposes simple materials: masonry walls with concrete structure and plaster finish in the interior and cementitious waterproof stucco, aluminum windows and wood floors. The courtyards are paved with precast concrete pavers and the paths through the forest are compacted fine gravel. The tree species match those of the nearby future Parco di Mestre.