Laboratory buildings very often are limited by stringent technical requirements that leave little room for environmental and aesthetics concerns. But the new Italcementi i.lab, the research and development center for Italcementi in Bergamo, Italy, has been designed aspiring to reflect the company’s position of leadership, technological advancement and commitment to research and innovation in the use of concrete.
The v-shaped building reinforces the boundaries of the triangular site and incorporates a program of technical and administrative spaces into two wings that surround a central courtyard. The “public” and “private” halves of the building hinge on a double-height entrance foyer, within which a long and elegant ramp allows circulation between floors.
The interior organization of the laboratory wing responds to the highly specific functional requirements of the program. A simple structural grid and a central circulation corridor allow efficient and flexible layouts for various sectors. The south wing houses conference rooms, a two-story multipurpose hall and a sky-lit board room that cantilevers over the first floor.
The building’s defining quality is daylight, with the roof of the structure forming a virtual fifth façade perforated with a system of skylights directing light into offices, circulation corridors, and laboratory spaces, and animating the interiors with the changing natural light. Daylight sensors control discreet shading devices to mitigate glare and heat gain, revealing the building’s technical intelligence.
An innovative high-strength, pollution-reducing reinforced concrete mixture was developed by Italcementi specifically for the building. This new concrete is used for the exterior skin facing the highway, the north screen, the curtain wall mullion system, and the precast wall and roof elements throughout the building. In addition to the white photocatalytic “smog-eating” concrete developed for the project, the building employs some of the most forward-thinking sustainable design features. Photovoltaic panels, solar panels and geothermal energy will provide remarkably high energy performance to meet all of the building’s heating and cooling requirements. The project aspires to be a benchmark of sustainable design in Europe and it has attained the first LEED Platinum accreditation in Italy.
The new Italcementi i.lab reflects the company’s “DNA” of tradition, innovation and sustainability. The building celebrates the 150-year-old company’s birthplace in Bergamo with innovative construction techniques, materials, natural light, and an apparent simplicity that challenges the traditional laboratory and office typologies.