Biblioteca Civica M. Beghi - La Spezia | image courtesy of AF517 | photo ©Luc Boegly feat

M. Beghi Civic Library – A new urban and cultural center for the city of La Spezia

La Spezia (IT)

© Author: Arch. Francesco De Fazio

The M. Beghi Civic Library, in the East of La Spezia in the Canaletto neighborhood, opened on April 1st, 2017. The building is the result of an architectural recovery of the Southern warehouse of the Ex-Fitram area by Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA, today known as Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia. It was declared as one of the biggest European projects of 2017. The new M. Beghi Civic Library still has all the architectural features of the abandoned building, along with the new “volume”, expression of the contemporary world.

M. Beghi Civic Library, from a power station to a new urban “center”

The Civic Library is the result of a competition that aimed to recover the ex Fitram area, the company of public local transportation. As a matter of fact, the library is where the warehouse was. The warehouse once had the boilers of the power station of the trolleybus line, and it was classified as an artifact of industrial archaeology on the Comprehensive Planning.
The job required the creation of a new urban “center”, functional and purposeful, since the administration wanted to re-create a place for people to meet, read and have fun. Therefore, it has been developed a “vibrant” place for the city that has now a small auditorium, a reading area for kids, an administrative area, and the offices for the library, along with the archives and the rooms for people to consult and read the books.
“Culture and reading, provided with the proper place, can become a moment of growth, education, and socialization…” (Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA, now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia)

The project didn’t mean to be on top of the existing one or to be on its side with original shapes, but to balance the existing building with new functions and parts, the inside with the outside, the urban landscape with the territory.

Indeed, it gives a new light to the building of the past century through a contemporary profile addition: a parallelepiped on the inside that looks like a cathode-ray tube, which is on the main façade and today is the icon of the new library.

One place, multiple functions

The civic library aims to offer an engaging experience. It makes people crave for research and discovery, fully represented by reading as the key instrument to freedom.
The total surface covers 1,560 square meters. The building has three floors: the ground floor (720 square mt), the first floor (660 square mt) and the second floor (180 square mt).
On the ground floor there is the reception with the location for loans, the space for magazines and newspapers, one with a public computer, the Kids Room, the meal service, and the toilets. Here there is also the Auditorium, which has 72 seats.

On the first floor you can find the big reading room, another reception, the IT lab, and the offices. Then, the second floor is characterized by the library, the consultation room and the historic archive of the Spezzino Institute for the Resistance History and the Contemporary Age. On the ground floor and on the first floor there are some informal seats with tables. The seats are 190.

«I reckon architecture a device of sentiment. This, in a library should be intimate and, at the same time, collective. It should slow down time, so that the experience inside the library is immersive, whether you are studying, reading, or writing. It should give life to the magic that creates a sense of belonging». (Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA, now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia)

Perspective drawings, materials, and colors

The design gives a new shape and life to the building (recognised as an industrial archaelogy artifact) through the implementation of a parallelepiped in the inside that looks like a cathode-ray tube, and it is on the façade of the entrance. Today it is considered the icon of the new library.
The main characters of the project are the color and the light.

The color

The color – first main character of the building in its different shades – can give energy to the scene and affirm its presence with determination in the city, respecting the context at the same time. The colors and the plots that are part of the volume of the new library come in succession on the perspective drawings. The aesthetics worth stands side by side to the functional one. The choice of using sheet metal as a part of the covering in the new building makes the inside implant functioning in an easier way. The colors of the building change from ochre to blue, passing through the shades of greys, white and black. The new building is separated from the warehouses through a chromatic effect, which enriches it. In this way, the color and the architecture embody an enriched meaning and turn the building into a new reference point of the territory.

The light

The light takes on spaces, which the designers compressed and expanded to build an osmotic relationship with the environment. Indeed, the natural light enters from the big original windows of the warehouse and from the skylight and cracks of glass. The plant of artificial lights is an explosion of LEDs and big lamps, designed for the building. The design gave priority to the aesthetic and the design, creating breath-taking spaces for first time visitors.

The building envelope

The analysis of passive performances confirmed the need to improve the insulation characteristics of the existing perimeter walls. An exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS) made it possible. The planned improvement on the existing building and the use of high-performance stratigraphic unit of walls (USM) in the new volumes fully respect the law in force, as the performance of the systems.

A start and not a finish line

The new library of the ex-Fitram area is the result of a journey that the municipality of La Spezia took in order to fulfill a demand from the city: a library that can meet the needs of beneficiaries and the growing number of materials.

The former system of the library in the neighborhood of the street via del Popolo could not fulfill the public’s needs. Meanwhile, the new library satisfies the desire of an independent building with adequate spaces both in dimension and services that can also host the growing number of users.

Last but not least, there was the desire to create a purposeful center with a view over the municipality that could give spaces for people to meet, read and have fun. This is a fundamental aspect to keep always in mind. Nowadays optimizing resources and adding value to the projects on the territory is one of the essential requirements of designers and administrations in order to have a strategic and synergical growth.

Project info and credits:

La Spezia (SP)

Comune di La Spezia

architectural and landscape design
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

architect in charge
Alfonso Femia

Simonetta Cenci

structural and environmental engineering

FOR engineering architecture

services and relartionships
ProgeTec s.n.c.

geological and geotechnical surveys
Geol. Enrico Verrando

Security consultant during design phase
FR Architettura Russo

project responsible
Luca Bonsignorio, Stefania Bracco, Simonetta Cenci, Ilaria Sisto

design team
Luca Bonsignorio, Stefania Bracco, Simonetta Cenci, Daniele di Matteo, Alfonso Femia, Gabriele Filippi, Domenica Laface, Gianluca Peluffo, Carola Picasso, Alessandra Quarello, Maria Michela Scala, Ilaria Sisto

Roxana Carugar, Daniela Checchin, Gianmatteo Ferlin, Michele Nicastro

Incarico relativo alla progettazione definitiva, coordinamento della sicurezza in fase di progettazione, relazione geologica e redazione elaborati grafici e relazione di accompagnamento del progetto di prevenzione incendi, da presentare al comando VV.FF. per l’ottenimento del parere ai sensi dell’art. 3 del D.P.R. 151/2012, per il recupero area ex-Fitram 1° Lotto lato sud per destinarvi biblioteca

total area: 4500 m2
floor area: 1.746 m2

2.560.500,00. euro

definitive design: 21.12.2012
executive design: 31.01.2013
completion: 2016
duration of the works: 16 months

architectural design
Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

©Luc Boegly

Competition, winning design