Promoted by Terna, the company that manages the high and extra-high voltage national power grid in Italy, the invitation-only call for tenders involved some of Italy’s biggest design studios, who were asked to focus on architectural quality that could integrate harmoniously with the natural landscape and the historic setting of this very unique part of the world.
The new converter substation is an additional piece in the modernisation of SA.Co.I.3, the current electrical connection between Sardinia, Corsica and the Italian peninsula, and the call for tenders represents a process that is mindful of the means and not just the ends, and ensures that both are to the very highest standard. A major infrastructure that is able to facilitate reduced grid loss and greater integration of renewable sources, allowing Italy to contribute to the completion of the European electricity market and strengthen its role as a natural hub of energy in the Mediterranean area.
The Architectural Design
The Suvereto converter station has been designed by Florentine architecture practice Pierattelli Architetture to blend fluidly with the colours of the surrounding landscape. Inspired by the Tuscan countryside and the local farmland and vegetation, the new design is industrial but dynamic and changeable in character and creates a continuous dialogue with the landscape. At the very heart of the design is terracotta (with warm, textural nuances): combining earth, water, air and fire, it is the main material used and has the ability to adopt the nuances of the surrounding lands and create links with tradition.
The Facades and Modules
The main building features solar-shade facades composed of terracotta geometric elements fastened to steel cables. The modular system creates a rhythmic surface pattern, which is also achieved through the terracotta tiles with their different dimensions and tones. A further nod to Tuscany and the surrounding landscape can be seen in the terracotta tones and textures on the outside of the warehouse. Here the ventilated facade is made up of one single type of rectangular terracotta tile, the surfaces of which have been washed and treated. The elements are anchored to a supporting structure composed of vertical bars fixed to the walls with brackets and wall plugs.
The Green Area and The Perimeter Fencing
The substation blends in beautifully with the landscape and also takes inspiration from it. Along with Tuscan materials and colours, its greenery is also used as a design tool and to add a softening effect. Native plants such as olive, cypress and pine trees (typical to the Tuscan countryside) are added to the pre-existing green area and along the road leading to the building’s entrance. Greenery is also included in sections of the perimeter fencing in order to soften its visual impact. On the internal side, zinc flower planters provide a bed for Virginia creepers, whose colours change with the seasons.
Lighting design is used to cleverly highlight the facades and their changing textures, and recessed LED floor lights cast strips of light upwards to elevate the sense of theatricality of the compositions. The same lighting system has been chosen for the entrance and the green spaces. The driveway to the building is a particular focal point, while theatrical spotlights nestled amongst the olives illuminate groups of trees and subtly highlight the landscape. Source by Pierattelli Architetture.
- Location: Suvereto, Livorno, Italy
- Architect: Pierattelli Architetture
- Lighting: Naboo spotlights by Ares (facade lighting), Chiara floor spotlights by Flos (outdoor lighting)
- Area: Total covered surface (main building) 5080 m2; Total covered surface (warehouse) 794 m2
- Year: 2020
- Images: Courtesy of Nemo Monti www.nemomonti.com