The San Geminiano complex, in the heart of Modena’s historic city centre, has housed the teaching and administrative headquarters of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia’s Law Faculty since 2009. There is also a conference hall beside the former church, which is used for public events and a number of catering structures.
The complex is arranged around three main courtyards, the largest of these being the cloister of a fifteenth-century convent. In terms of urban planning, the site is listed as a heritage zone. It has undergone a meticulous scientific restoration process designed to address the joint considerations of comfort, fire and seismic safety and ensuring flexibility in how the site is used, without compromising the priceless heritage of the buildings in terms of form and appearance.
A number of existing developments within the protected zone had fundamentally altered its relationship with the surrounding city, effectively cutting it off, and isolating it from the immediate context, while at the same time, leaving some of the original spaces unavailable for use.
The project envisioned the creation of three clearly identified and identifiable, separate areas in different sections of the site, each with a distinct function within the faculty (a teaching area, an area for administration, meetings and reception activities, and a communal area, with facilities such as the dining hall).
The teaching facilities were housed in the precious, original structures around the Renaissance cloister, these having been suitably restored, while the administrative area occupied the 17th and 18th century complex of courtyards, which already featured suitably monumental access staircases. The collective spaces were housed separately in a series of buildings that had originally been built for storage and other facilities, after the more incongruous later additions had been removed.
Other later additions that were deemed inappropriate to the setting were also removed, thus recovering floor space in hitherto unused areas.
Finally, a thorough overhaul of the access routes, cloisters and piazze were key in bringing the whole area back into closer contact with the wider city, both in a literal, physical sense, but also in terms of how it is used.