The quality of spaces and environments as a rehabilitation pathway: Studio Arbau has overseen the renovation of the Forte Rossarol structure in Tessera near Venice. A design path that enhances a former military complex

The Soranzo Centre in Tessera (Ve), in the green area of Forte Rossarol, was established about 20 years ago for the treatment of addictions (alcohol, cocaine, psychoactive substances, analgesics, gambling and other behavioural addictions) and proposes a therapeutic method based on the latest results of neuroscientific research. Since 2013, Arbau studio has been overseeing the redevelopment of the area: a former military powder magazine on 20 hectares of land, surrounded by agricultural plots where 35 buildings are located, 11 of which currently house the Centre's facilities. A participatory process involving both the guests and a staff of relational artists, doctors, psychologists, graphic designers, neuropsychiatrists, management and support teams.

The benefits of neuro-architecture

In developing the project, Soranzo Centre and studio Arbau (winner with this redevelopment of the Wood Architecture Prize 2024, promoted annually by Klimahouse, in the public architecture category) started from the common conviction that architectural spaces are not mere 'physical containers', but scenarios capable of shaping people's behaviour. Environments and spaces designed and built with a focus on neuro-architecture create inclusive environments that improve the quality of life and promote people's mental and physical well-being (paying attention to natural and artificial lighting, layout, materials, tactile design, acoustics, colours, nature and greenery, customisation possibilities, artistic installations).

Disease and disability

The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA), a scientific society founded by architects and neuroscientists for the exchange of knowledge and research synergies, has long been working to promote collaboration between experimental research and insights into architectural design that is attentive to a vision of protection and health. Disease and disability are closely connected and linked to environmental conditions: the same symptom is more or less incapacitating depending on the environment in which it develops. Rehabilitation intervention is not only about disease, causes and symptoms, but also about the physical environment in which the disease is treated.

Multipurpose spaces

Following these guidelines, Studio Arbau, with the consultancy of Artway of Thinking (a group of relational artists involved in co-design and participatory processes), is creating multi-purpose spaces for communal and group activities by extending some of the pavilions of the Soranzo Centre with X-lam structures. The panels, used for both the vertical structure and the roof, are left exposed on the inside. Two steel portals support the entire structure, which expands into the portico, freeing the entire space from supports. The diagonal cut of the portico orients the space towards the pedestrian walkway, while the large glazed openings allow a view of the forest behind.

Respectful volumetric extensions

The volumetric enlargement of the pavilions of the Soranzo Centre completely redesigns the building in this disused military area in the Venetian hinterland, which is subject to monumental constraints and has already been the subject of a restyling project. In order not to alter the settlement regularity, the new volumes are in continuity with the existing ones and characterised at the head by the cut of the pitches. The asymmetrical projection of the roof draws a new transparent façade, bordered by a glazing that traces the new access to the building.

Energy renovation, interior design and green project

The Soranzo Centre project integrated several themes in addition to the volumetric expansion of some of the pavilions: from the energy renovation and restyling of the existing buildings to the functional reorganisation of the spaces, the interior design and the landscaping of the surrounding greenery. The arrangement of the interiors started with the functional redistribution of furniture and graphics based on a unified palette of shades developed with the neuropsychiatrists. The tree-lined green area was enhanced by rearranging the pedestrian paths, redesigning the new entrance area and rethinking the central avenue as a pedestrian boulevard.

Bright, welcoming and stimulating spaces

The design of the Soranzo Centre can be defined according to the three basic requests made to the Arbau studio when designing the spaces, which were to be: bright, welcoming and stimulating. Light enters the structures through large windows that filter the exterior and interior, making the interior space influenced by natural light and views of the green surroundings more dynamic. Then, personalised, non-imposing, flexible spaces that can be interpreted according to the needs of the people who live in them to foster a sense of welcome. Lastly, dynamic spaces through work on perception and spatial decomposition: colour palettes linked not to abstract theories on the psychology of colour but to the context and light of the place to encourage stimuli also borrowed from certain experiences from the world of art.