Architecture as a form of participation in the post-earthquake regeneration and redevelopment of a religious complex

Destroyed by the earthquake that hit Emilia Romagna in 2012, Reggiolo's parish centre was reborn through the project by MAB Arquitectura, a studio based in Milan and Barcelona, which has given shape to a permeable, identity-rich and welcoming architecture. A redevelopment project that has stitched together expressive and relational elements of the area, creating a new spatial pole open to the entire community.

Redevelop and regenerate

The redevelopment of an area can become an opportunity to link demolition and reconstruction to a substantial environmental regeneration, realising integrated projects with a strong socio-economic value, stitching together networks of spaces (public and private) that represent the connective tissue of the daily life of a community, enhancing places that have historical and architectural value.

A path in perspective

Requalifying an area after a serious seismic event can be an opportunity for integrated planning and an approach to construction focused on the social and cultural function of the place. A path in perspective, not short-term, capable of ensuring the restoration of conditions of normality, encouraging the development of new activities, attracting old and new inhabitants, re-establishing territorial relations. This is the case of this intervention by MAB Arquitectura in Reggiolo, the result of a competition by invitation launched in 2016 by the Diocese of Reggio Emilia and Guastalla.

A building with a strong identity

Today, the parish centre of the church of San Rocco has been reborn thanks to MAB Arquitectura's project centred on the idea of a community that finds its founding values in the open and meeting spaces, around a building with a strong identity, capable of stitching together the connective tissues between church, classrooms, oratory and pertinent spaces.

Responding to a loss

"Post-earthquake reconstruction is certainly a response to an emergency, but at the same time it is necessary to define regeneration tools that are able to interpret the needs of a community made so fragile by the loss of its reference points," explain architects Floriana Marotta and Massimo Basile of MAB Arquitectura.

Redefining urban organisation

Developed on an area of over 1,237 square metres, MAB Arquitectura's project responds to the need to return the destroyed parish spaces to the city, but also becomes an opportunity to redefine the entire urban organisation of the area. Through a master plan that envisaged partial demolition of the pre-existing structures and the construction of a new building (a light, glassed-in volume, very compact, developed on two storeys while respecting the heights of the context), the architects have created a series of functional courtyards to create new spatial relations and encourage connections between the public and private parts, where the rectory has been located.

Formal purity and recovery of the religious architectural tradition

In continuity, the two areas occupy the opposite wings of the plan: the oratory is developed on the ground floor where the entrance, parish hall and bar are also located, while on the first floor there are various multi-purpose spaces, including ten classrooms for catechesis; while the rectory is developed entirely on the first floor, above the office area and houses five private lodgings. Essential in its formal purity, the complex evokes typical features of the religious tradition: from the square plan to the external courtyards in succession that evoke cloisters, interpreted by MAB Arquitectura as elements of strong symbolic value in Catholic iconography and as reassuring places for the community to meet.

Enhancing the courtyards and cloisters

The space of the parish centre is organised around a first courtyard, more intimate and cosy, defined by the new oratory and the church, enhanced by MAB Arquitectura by exposing the side façade while maintaining, through the sacristy, a connection with the new graft; and a second courtyard- cloister, defined by the oratory building, onto which all the ground floor functions face: an ideal space for events or outdoor parties, in line with requests.

A social function

"Architecture often becomes scenography and becomes the bearer of a narrative capable of bearing witness to its function: with our project we have tried to give this place back its social function, creating new spatial and relational connections capable of giving the community of Reggiolo a sense of meaning, and an opportunity from which to start again to rewrite the future," conclude the designers of MAB Arquitectura.

Light and sustainable

The complex, winner in the design phase of The Plan Award 2017 and, recently, of the IN/Arch 2023 Regional Prize, has obtained Casa Clima A energy certification and is built around three materials: corten, glass and white plaster. The chromatic and material register is legible inside and outside and is recalled by the green elements in the cosy cloister space. The glass windows maximise the entry of light into the various rooms, enhancing a visual transparency that makes it possible to read the sequence of the courtyards as far as the sports fields.

Photos: Andrea Martiradonna