The design concept derives from Dante Alighieri’s journey through inferno, purgatory and paradise. As in the Divine Comedy, the structure of hell is composed of “stations” each with its own particular interest. The first space is the inferno: a pit descending into darkness. The pit is an enclosed hollow space of circulation. Its marble volume looks as if carved by the fall of the angel Lucifer. The overall structure of the walls and of the pit, is made of Carrara marble. The second space, corresponding to paradise, is a glass volume suspended over the pit of hell. This glass structure houses most of the program spaces. It is a mirror image of the pit: not only is it composed of a different material, it has a different orientation. Theses design choices underscore the profound difference between heaven and hell while at the same time drawing out their similarities. The third and final space, purgatory, is a void that separates pit and library, heaven and hell. The separation between these two spaces represents the presence of divine justice that palaces sunder between the good and the bad, reminiscent of the last judgment.
The program spaces of the library are morphological structures, which, while in dialog with one another, maintain their individuality. In addition to the architectonic division between library and pit in the form of the emptiness of purgatory, the functional purposes of the primary spaces also set them apart. The pit contains recreational areas and a piazza at its base. It is designed for use in everyday activities whereas the library space is reserved for the more elevated activity of learning. Both spaces can be occupied simultaneously while remaining detached. Despite the clear demarcation of architectonic and functional spaces circulation is the structure’s most notable aspect. Like the journey that constitutes the narrative movement of Dante’s text, the design concept emphasizes constant movement through the various levels of the structure. To this end, the building has three forms of circulation: ramps, staircases, and elevators. Just as the narrative movement of the Divine Comedy is its essential aspect, how one moves through the building is more important than the static spaces of which it is composed. ultimately creating a journey of self-discovery within an architectural setting of light and darkness.
Location: Rome, IT