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Italo Calvino: Institute For Studies And Gallery

Part 1 Project 2002
Vanessa Lockett
Rachel Elliott
Cardiff University, UK
Italo Calvino is an Italian journalist, short story writer and novelist and is considered one of the most important fiction writers in the 20th century. Both the content of his books and their narrative structure are based on the impossible task of dissecting the innumerable aspects of this world into small particles and units, or imposing an ending in a universe that ever creates itself afresh each instant.

The site is a dense urban site situated in Bloomsbury close to the British Museum. The main function of the building is to display the work of artists that are influenced by the work of Calvino as well as the housing of conference, research and library facilities for writers, scholars and academics who use this place to study his fictions. The integration of the listed façade on Bury Place was given particular attention in the design of the new building.

The design is a tribute to Calvino that not only exists to display his work but also embodies his life and encourages his spirit to endure new generations. Axes based on his place of birth and life in relation to the site determine the grid and embed meaning into the route and form. The visitor enters on the birth axis and exits on the life axis, this route is symbolic of experiencing Calvino’s life. Regular and fragmentary elements juxtapose reflecting his interspliced writing style. The central block supports meandering circulation and casual display whilst the regular blocks are for prescribed functions. The visitor experiences Calvino’s writing as a translation into form.

Vanessa Lockett
Rachel Elliott


The aims of the teaching programme in third year of the BSc course focus on the successful integration of human, social, architectural and technical knowledge in response to a complex design brief. In addition to these objectives the project on Italo Calvino aimed at enabling students to embrace a wider cultural context and draw inspiration from the ideas in his literature. The student's project has successfully resolved these demands and is nominated for the following reasons:

It establishes an integration of practical considerations along with a systematic and coherent approach to architectural language, building form and appearance.

It sees beyond conventional functional considerations focusing on the overall role of the building and the impression it should leave to the visitor.

It draws poetic expression from Calvino's work from the urban location to the programme. the route, space, lighting and materials and sees architecture as related to a wider context of events and ideas. These are addressed at all levels of the design process rather than planted superficially as sources of inspiration.

Finally, its influence from existing architectural styles is a positive demonstration of an active engagement with contemporary architectural design and practice.

2002
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