The Pratic 2.0 building – an addition to the campus of a major solar shading company in northeastern Italy – aims to dialogue, according to its makers, “with the earth and the sky, with light and shadow.”
It isn’t every day that commercial structures are described in such poetic terms, but the language is entirely appropriate in the case of Pratic 2.0, an uncommonly elegant complex that sits like a shimmering jewel box in a vast, open industrial area near the city of Udine.
Designed by Gri e Zucchi Architettura, the 9,000-square-metre rectangular addition – GEZA also created the 2011 black-concrete facility that Pratic 2.0 augments – contains offices, a showroom, research and innovation laboratories, spaces for production, painting and warehousing and a wellness area for employees.
Located alongside a major highway, the new building is clad in a single material (polycarbonate) deployed in a unique size (four-centimetre-thick panels, about 10 metres high, affixed to a prefab concrete frame).
Each panel, moreover, is comprised of two different types of polycarbonate combined together: the rear side contains an opaque compound that impedes light from passing through, while the front has a mirror-like quality.
The result is that, from a distance, Pratic 2.0 reflects the sky and appears covered by huge glass plates, while up close it looks “lighter,” less luminous. “The mirroring of the panels,” GEZA adds, “also ensures a continuous color variation of the facades.” Depending on the time of day and the intensity of the light, “the building may appear black, golden, metallic, opaque [or] glossy.” It’s “infinitely variable.”
At the same time, say the architects, the load-bearing frame of the addition “is completely hidden behind the cladding system,” while “the verticality of the new facade sets up an interesting dialogue with the black concrete panels” of the original complex.
In addition to designing Pratic’s two main buildings, GEZA also oversaw the landscaping of the site, a generally flat area defined by “modified embankments” along the highway and by a mountain range to the north.
“Places designed for relaxation, pedestrian paths and parking lots are enclosed in the design of the modified embankments that insert subtle variations of slope with respect to the roads and access roads,” says GEZA. “In this way, the project is inserted in the ground in a clear way, highlighting the shape and geometry of the territory.”
Overall, the architects add, “the building demonstrates that industrial architecture can add value to the landscape and improve the quality of the workplace. This is a great opportunity to rethink the relationship between architecture and nature, putting man back in the middle.”