Variation of modes of use: functions, users, schedules, etc.

Relationship between the ownership and the form of the investment that allows the transformation

Variation of the overall dimensions of the building

Proportional relationship between new spaces and existing spaces

Relationship between the structural adjustments and the existing structure

Relationship between the forms and types of pre-existing materials and those of the new intervention

Relationship between the image of the new and the image of the existing (mimesis / contrast)


Reggio Emilia


ZAA Zamboni Associati Architettura



Zamboni associati – Regeneration of the monumental complex of S. Peter Cloisters

PROJECT - Main Infos

PROJECT: Zamboni associati – Regeneration of the monumental complex of S. Peter Cloisters

LOCATION: Reggio Emilia

YEAR: 2019

ARCHITECT / FIRM: ZAA Zamboni Associati Architettura

BUYER: Reggio Emilia Municipality

SURFACE: 6.950 sqm

PRICE: € 2.700.000

Encompassing the complexity of conservative intervention together with the challenge of building replacement and that of rediscovering a public space, the challenge was grafted onto the particular nature of the object of regeneration, an ancient monastery unused for centuries as such and once a protected and circumscribed place within its cloisters, by its very nature introverted spaces destined for the internal use of a few, with the aim to re-open and return them to the city and to public use. The regeneration of the monumental body was carried out through the completion of the conservative restoration and the adaptation of the functional equipment for a excellence cultural use. Conceptually, the project has kept in filigree not only the signs of the transformations that the complex has undergone over time, avoiding bringing it back to a falsely original condition that is today irreproducible, but also the unfinished character that the centuries have given us back, a conceptual thing that the project has made its own. It is evident, in addition to the unfinished in the altimetric sense of which the base part of the Chiostro Grande is clear evidence, the unfinished in planimetric sense, since evidently the complex was destined to an extension. This aspect of unfinished has allowed conceptually and methodologically to consider the space behind as autonomous with respect to the monastery, with which it also maintains a direct relationship thanks to the lowered height of the Chiostro Grande. The Urban Open Laboratories represent the management "machine" of the complex, an aspect emphasized by the architectural form and by the emergence of technical volumes also serving the monumental body in the inclined roof. Conceived as a sequence of three large serial spaces, it is characterized by maximum internal flexibility also in relation to the external spaces and the courtyards. The serial aspect, the bare structure, the rhythm of the facade in the repetition of its elements and the interruption of the strips as the beams head emerges, the contrast between the material surfaces, all this contributes to recalling a dialogue at a distance with the monumental order of the ancient building and its unfinished basement part. The restoration of the ancient Stables building, located on the terminal side of the courtyard areas to the East, was carried out with the same criteria of the monumental body. The aim was also to seek a balanced relationship between ancient and contemporary through a material dialogue with the adjacent Laboratories. The project was completed with the rediscovery of the courtyard areas as new public spaces once again returned to the city, previously asphalted forecourts deriving from the prolonged use of the complex as military barracks. The definition of the new public spaces has been achieved through the rediscovery of the connections between the buildings and the back areas, planting large adult plane trees and creating a new lighting.

WHAT - Program

PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The functional program remains predominantly the original one, with a limited new program.

The project involved the completion of the restoration of the Renaissance monumental body to return it to public use, the urban regeneration through the demolition of the annexed buildings behind and the reconstruction on the same site of the new building of Open Urban Laboratories, in close relationship with the monumental complex and in functional continuity with the adjacent building also restored of the old Scuderia. And finally the project involved the redevelopment of the courtyard areas between the three buildings, rediscovering the role of urban crossing, of space for relationship, of a place once again returned to the city.

WHO - Financing

BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND REPLACEMENT: Balanced financing between the original owner and another investor.

As a military area then abandoned, this place represented an inaccessible area in the heart of the historical city until the moment of rediscovery for temporary events such as the European Photography festival. With the aim of strengthening its strategic cultural vocation, the reconversion of the complex, started at the end of 2017 and completed in March 2019, was financed with European funds through the regional program POR-FESR Axis 6 "Attractive and participated cities" with the goal of returning it to the full as a cultural-innovative pole of international relevance. The project involved three closely related interventions in a single operation.

HOW MUCH - Absolute Dimensions


TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The overall dimensions are equal to the pre-existing surface.


TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The overall dimensions are equal to the pre-existing volume.

The Cloisters of St. Peter follow the casuistry of other coeval and large complexes, partly showing the unfinished and partly signs of stratified transformations that must be interpreted carefully. Both situations were accepted and made their own, intervening even where there were missing functional elements that required choices and materials methodologically consistent with the building. The greatest effort has been towards the search for a balanced relationship between newly inserted materials and those carefully restored. The doors and covering elements that house the fan coils, the only interventions in a contemporary key, are clearly recognizable albeit with a material and chromatic consistency with the remaining materials and finishes. They are made of burnished brass and create a dialogue at a distance, like elements that wink at ancient materials, and as such they will age taking the patina of time and wear.

HOW MUCH - Relative Dimensions

PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: Pre-existing spaces are prevalent with respect to new spaces.

Among the rediscovered parts, certainly the most important was the reopening of the last rampant of the seventeenth-century stairwell, which was incorporated with the function of storage on the side of the adjacent church of San Pietro at the time of the separation between the monastery and its church itself. This operation made it possible to avoid the construction of incongruous and external staircases, completing the entire staircase and rediscovering the courtyard space between the monastery and the church, previously inaccessible and now reopened to the side of the lower level corridor. We also intervened on vertical connections, creating an elevator that connects all the levels of the ancient monastery starting from the basement. The latter was reopened to the public and the new toilet block and the plant rooms housed inside spaces on the side of the corridor corresponding to the loggia above were built.

HOW - Design Strategy STRUCTURE

BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND REPLACEMENT: The supporting structure is composed in a balanced way by pre-existing structures and new structures.

Given the nature of the complex, and the attribution of the Great Cloister by Bruno Adorni to the hand of Giulio Romano, but also for the complexity of this extraordinary building that testifies, between the large and the small cloisters, a period of incredible vivacity of the monastic and Benedictine architecture, our work between project and construction site was conducted with “velvet gloves” and with the utmost rigor. One example is the methodology used in the Chiostro Piccolo, the first space that is discovered by accessing the monumental part and the oldest, where the logic of maintaining the traces of time also prevailed in the terracotta flooring, integrating it in a timely manner with re-used tiles from the building itself and leaving signs of material consumption. In the Chiostro Grande, on the other hand, whose pavement were previously removed and had not been traced except in the ancient photos, a terracotta of ancient style was laid. We decided to reveal the unfinished also in the wall finish of the base part of Chiostro Grande, leaving all the traces of the layered transformations under a veil of lime.

HOW - Design Strategy MATERIAL

PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The materials chosen for the new intervention show more similarities than differences compared to the pre-existing ones.

Conceived as a sequence of three large serial spaces, the new Laboratories building is characterized by maximum internal flexibility also in relation to the external spaces and the courtyards that favor the natural passing ventilation. The south façade allows the maximum contribution of controlled natural lighting through a polycarbonate system and wooden strips, from which the heads of the concrete septa emerge to denounce the scanning of the interior spaces. All the masonry structures are in white washed concrete and left exposed. The glass wall that runs the length of the laboratories allows the uninterrupted view of the perimeter wall of the ancient monastery and excludes the view of the upper part, as if to underline a protected area enclosed in the heart of the city.

HOW - Design Strategy IMAGE

TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The new intervention is in total mimetic continuity with the existing structures.

The greenery newly inserted in the courtyard areas is not of the horizontal type but vertical, also to allow maximum flexibility in the use of the spaces, and is defined by the large crowns of the plane trees and by the creepers in the ancient walls that originally held the complex towards the surrounding countryside and today towards the nineteenth-century city (on the side of the via Emilia) or twentieth-century (towards via Monte San Michele). The perimeter walls of the ancient monastery have been rediscovered and enhanced as an ideal backdrop that defines the edges of the restored complex, a place of quiet and public space like a system of small squares where it is possible to imagine different public activities.