Polveriera: a special renovation project.

Reading time: minutes

At Reggio Emilia, the barrier-free redevelopment of a disused military complex

To a design by the Marcel Mauer architecture firm, the redevelopment of the Polveriera – a complex of military buildings of historic interest, very close to the historic centre of Reggio Emilia, abandoned since the '50s – brings new retail businesses and new social functions to a run-down urban area, in a completely barrier-free form.


Beauty as a catalyst for social inclusion, combating marginalisation and decay, is the guiding principle of the entire project for the renovation of the buildings, which now house a day centre for people with disabilities and offices that bring vulnerable people back into the world of work.


While the architectural design as such gave central priority to the character of this historic location, rich in memories and meanings, by conserving the buildings' structural forms intact, no less importance was given to the needs and inputs of the people who were to use the premises.


The most difficult design challenge was encountered in the toilets, a place where technical considerations usually prevail over matters of style.

The aim was to create toilets where the difference between disability and "normality" would not be noticeable, and where beauty would not be smothered by practicality: the sanitary fixtures and furnishings chosen are attractive and "normal", but have been installed in complete accordance with the distances and heights required by law to allow "everyone" to use them.


The bathrooms' design maintained the simple, plain industrial character of the entire complex – and this also applied to the choice of ceramic tiles. The Marazzi Chalk concrete-look collection, in Smoke, Avio and Sand colours, with the two Fiber and Brick 3D structures, was laid horizontally on the walls to give these fairly small interiors an attractively neat appearance, with an impression of added depth provided by the chiaroscuro effect of the 3D tiles. The Chalk mosaic, in the same colours, was chosen as covering for the right-angled form which serves as back for the WC.


The project has received the regional social inclusion certification by CRIBA (the Regional Centre for Environmental Health).