A Tilted Music Academy in Italy Responds to Its Geographic and Seismic Contexts
Nestled within a bowl of hills and agricultural fields, the Camerino Academy of Music replaces an earlier building destroyed by an earthquake.
For months in 2016, a series of earthquakes up to magnitude 6.6 shook central Italy to its bones, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless. Situated 55 miles from one of the event’s epicenters, the university town of Camerino was strongly impacted and lost its music academy. Last October, however, Rome-based architecture firm Alvisi Kirimoto completed a new two-story, 6,460-square-foot Camerino Academy of Music, finishing a project begun by Harcome Design in, as cofounder Massimo Alvisi describes it, a “choral creative process.”
Visible amidst a big sky, Camerino’s terra-cotta roofs, and fields of green and dun, the new academy building responds to seismic code with a concrete basement and timber structure, while giving the town a modern architectural anchor. Perched at the top of a broad stairway on concrete columns, the timber frame and glazing are clad in white sheet metal. On the south side, these metal panels part to reveal the glazing of the ground floor. This outer layer is perforated irregularly with a cottony pattern of wispy clouds inspired by rarefaction, a phenomenon that combines the building’s aural and meteorological contexts. (Rarefaction is caused by a decrease in atmosphere density and pressure due to the passage of a sound wave and results in intense cloud activity.) Reclining on a slope and its face pointed upward, the building both reflects the sky and dissolves into it.
Alvisi says the design team took inspiration from “the strong relationship with nature, the dynamism and the beauty of clouds, the hills that surround the site,” adding there was an aim to convey a feeling of “lightness and suspension.”
The building straddles a hilly site, so that the slope seems to pour into one side of the building. A shaded garden and a plaza-like area leading to the entrance serve as public space for the broader community. Because the structure stands astride the slope, the auditorium sits at basement level on the south side and street level to the north. The flagship space, a 2,433-square-foot, 180-seat auditorium, features a mix of concrete structural elements and oak finishes.
Alvisi Kirimoto used the same oak for the dynamically arranged suspended ceiling panels, the rotating surfaces of the stage, and a wood-clad backdrop. Oak wall slats also line a side corridor, helping to generate a sense of texture, rhythm, and motion.
At the rear of the auditorium, a transparent wall leads to the entrance foyer, enlarging the space visually. From here, a bold orange resin staircase guides up to the second floor, bathing its classroom doors and some walls with color. Along the north side, two circular windows positioned at different heights open up the classrooms. Cued by the shapes of musical notes, they filter light during the day and then glow like lanterns after dark.
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