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Cinema Roma


Recovery and transformation of a building changing its intended use

The property is located in Florence, Via I° Settembre, Nos. 6-8-10-12

Historical Context

This property was popularly known as "Lo Spizio", the hospice, having been a hospital that closed permanently in 1896. There used to be a vapor mill in the premises which was destroyed in a fire. The mill fire resulted in subsequent construction of the present building, which is the object of this architectural project. After careful historical research, we were able to gain access to the original floor plans, which illustrate the situation prior to 1925, as well as the planimetric copies that show the situation after the renovations that took place around 1930. Therefore it was clear that the structure, an ex cinema-theater, was built around 1930, and has been completely deserted for years. The present division of spaces, which were identified in the project phase, leads us to deem them compatible with the original structure, with the exception of some small internal modifications that occurred through the years.

Typological, formal and structural characteristics of the building

The building is part of a vast property with multiple uses. In fact on the street side there are some shops, while the rest of the volume is intended for residential use. The building has a structure similar to recreation areas for performing arts. Englobed in a a wider and important building cluster, which was transformed by the aggregation of more factory units which have been historically recorded and are part of a single construction unit. Today, it is being used mainly as a residential unit. Its previous functions, as mentioned before, included a hospital containing a mill. Only after the destruction caused by the fire, the freed area as well as parts of the open areas were re-edified. It became the premises of the theatre, which in turn became a cinema, but as new citizen requirements followed one another, the building metamorphosed from hospital to residential complex, and the present intervention tends to transform the now anachronistic intended use of the cinema/theater structure.

The continuous stratification of functions and amplifications gave the building a disposition and form similar to a parallelepiped monolith, to the point of appearing almost like an impenetrable fortress from the outside. The spontaneous and non-structured amplifications which the entire complex underwent across time, and which is an important part or the present report, has highlighted the characteristics of a “poor” residence, in which new and changing requirements resulted in aggregations which did little to maintain any kind of stylistic, formal and structural harmony. The material used for these interventions, furthermore, was often rescued from other constructions, incoherent, even reaching the point of putting some of the building’s solidity at risk, even though it was recently object of global renewal work with extraordinary work of maintenance as can be noted in the present images.

Maintenance and conservation state of the premises

The building we intervene upon presents the following construction characteristics, with use of the following construction material (conservation and maintenance state are also referred): bearing wall made up of coarse rocks and firm bricks, bound by hydraulic mortar ; the same construction technique, with prevalent lateral work, and in some cases a narrower partition walls. These walls don’t present any relevant lesions. The vertical connection between floors of the auditorium and the gallery, is a flight of Travertine stairs which is currently in the large room and which serves as a divisor, leading in turn to the auditory through several apertures.

The vertical connexion between the floors of the gallery and the projection room was a cast iron spiral staircase in a small niche constructed for this purpose, and in juxtaposition with the hind area of the gallery, along the hallway that leads to said gallery. Floors in the ground floor are single fire ceramic tile in the rooms supporting the cinema, while in the auditorium it’s an inclined cement cast made on purpose for its intended use as a theater. On the first floor and in the wide gallery risers, floors are ceramic tile as in ground floor.

The roofing is a traditional roof consisting of a tile roof lain over a layer of ground flat tiles, which in turn are supported by the primary and secondary framework of the roof, constructed in spruce. This type of mantle covers the whole building except for the central body, over the auditorium, in which the roofing is Marseille style brickwork.

Suspended ceilings: all of the rooms under the roof have suspended ceilings, some of them even containing garrets, or portions of garrets in the bearing structure. Plasters and external finishing details have been restructured recently at the condominial level.

Directly adjacent uncovered areas: from one of the street numbers along the public street, there is access to the internal courtyard which hosts the stage access staircase

Analysis of proposed restructuring intervention

For the present building, the only recovery interventions which are allowed are those which will recover the existing premises and which are listed in the technical standards for implementation of the general city plan. The present project proposes, in full respect to nature and to the integral elements of the building and its typological and structural characteristics, the full transformation of the building popularly known as "ex cinema-teatro Roma", from a building with a recreational use to one intended for residential use. This transformation entails fractioning of internal spaces and better use of a vast expanse on the ground floor, in order to satisfy the irrevocable needs of parking in a residential property living in today’s rather hectic paces. Let’s focus on the analysis of the following interventions, which allow for residential characteristics, compatible with the intrinsic characteristics of the building: structural consolidation, improvement of internal area distribution, improvement of light and ventilation, technological improvements, conservation of the constitutive or integral characteristics of the building, with special care for their historical, documentary and architectural-environmental value, including the reactivation of directly pertinent open spaces.

1. Structural reinforcement and operations aimed at static and anti-seismic protection

The ground floor of the main body and the areas surrounding it, having been destined for non residential use, and furthermore, as they also lack flooring, present the following challenge: the existing flooring is cement in direct contact with the ground, and it is also inclined, so what’s needed is a crawl space with a draining and airing function, which will be the underlying groundwork for the new flooring. As this work is carried out, if visual analysis confirms feasibility, a subperimeter of concrete curbing is to be lain along the perimeter walls, in order to improve static and anti-seismic characteristics, and the floor is to be set out horizontally from there, eliminating the present inclination and any resulting changes in height. Reinforcement of the building’s structure will be further completed with a concrete curbing along the wall, matching the roof pitches. This sub foundation will be set in place by shortening of the perimeter walls, Reconstruction of the primary and secondary roof framework in wood using recovered material and substitution of broken material. Reconstruction of the roof pitches plane in previously recovered and washed tiles, lain over the pitches. Vapor barrier set up. Construction of screed in cement paste with steel mesh, electrowelded. Reconstruction of the roofing pitches reutilising material which was previously set aside reintegrating tile pieces, substituting the current tiling which is in Marseille clay tiles; reconstruction of the top roofing, in correspondence with the dimensions and materials that exist. The only addition was the roof windows, as many as there are housing units directly below and in compliance with dimensions imposed by the city plans regulations, art. 176.1.4. The vertical connection or middle floor will be the location of the new bearing framework in reinforced concrete.

2. Improvement of interior space distribution

Analysis of current needs and functions which might still be compatible with the existing construction, as it was modified along the years, leas to the following subdivision of spaces:    

Ground floor

Three of the street numbers on via 1 Settembre were destined to diverse uses. The pedestrian entrance was located at No. 6, leading to the internal courtyard and through a staircase, thus connecting the street to the first floor, which is now destined to residences which will result from the construction of the new inter-floor crawl space. From this same entrance, there is access to the housing unit located along the condominial stairs, which is currently intended for residential use, with planimetric development on two levels, and windows directly facing the internal courtyard; At No. 8, there is the vehicle entrance, which leads to the current parking mentioned before; this operation will be possible thanks to the elimination of the old vertical connection, which is currently in the large atrium which accesses the auditorium; at No. 10 there is an independent unit which is destined to commercial use. As hinted before the focus of work on the ground floor is on recovering the area which had previously been used as an auditorium and under-stage, transforming it into an area which will house 9 parking spaces. Two additional residences, relatively new in construction, are located on the ground floor as well, except they have direct access to the back garden. The first one, which can be classified as a one-room apartment, directly confines with the parking area, and is accessible from the uncovered back garden; the second was projected transforming the volume occupied by dressing rooms and warehouse.

The result is a terraced house, with a flat roof and an architecture similar to lofts, specially due to the placement of the wide apertures facing the front external side of the building.  This housing unit too is accessible from the uncovered back garden.

First floor -

As foreseen by the analysis of the first floor, this floor is accessible from the street, through access to street number 6, which leads to the condominial staircase joining the two levels. The walkway is already being projected, with an appropriate dimension in respect of Art. no. 13/89, to overcome any architectural boundaries. This floor is also accessible from the parking lot, where we can find both a condominial service staircase and an elevator which is properly positioned for elimination of architectural boundaries. From the walkway there is direct access to the entrance of the six housing units, immediately recognisable as six one-room and one two-room lofts in the volume previously occupied by the stage.

This real estate unit is projected in two split levels, and the night quarters enjoy the large pre-existing window, transforming it into a French window from which to access the cut-away roof terrace, which also serves as roof for the real-estate unit constructed in the dressing room area.

As for five of the six one-room apartments on this floor, they are all located on the rear facade of the building

The construction of these real-estate units, which were in fact projected as wide lofts, entailed modification of the apertures on the rear facade, so that their height would be homogeneous with respect to the rest of the rear facade, thus also verifying the surface ratio as is specified in the R.E. in the case of a 1/8 ratio between the walkable area of every room and the level of the floor itself. From the condominial walkway, a staircase links the first floor to the second.

Second floor -

In this floor the operation consisted in the recovery of the pre-existing real-estate unit, which could only be accessed through the old spiral staircase, which was very small. So as a first measure, a better staircase was projected, and the rest of the installation was left as it was originally, with the exception of some sanitary improvements.

Thus, an essential and highly necessary toilet was built, and with the two renovation operations described above, it was possible to recover the last residential unit, consisting of three rooms. 

  3. Improvement of the window/floor surface ratio through the repoening of the apertures which had been closed up due to changing needs in time, or simply to avoid intrusions during the long period in which the property was abandoned.

We identified the present building as dating back to 1930, its structure having arrived to us after only minimal transformations, mostly internal operations to move partitionings or apertures. Since other renovations are impossible due to the closeness of adjacent buildings, the project proposes making an aperture under the edge of the roof, highlighted in the elaborated graphics, for each of the housing units under the roof which subtends the ex-gallery; these windows under the roof are projected with a maximum dimension of 1.20 sq. m, and have the purpose of granting further natural light to the rooms below, which have a correct ratio. It is proposed to re-open the apertures which are walled in, both those facing the courtyard and the one in the volume which was previously occupied by the stage, in addition to the opening of small lighting apertures.


4. Conservation of constituent features of the building

Particular care was taken to preserve the historical, documentary and architectural-environmental value of the property, including the rehabilitation of the directly pertinent open spaces. Given the state of complete abandon of the property, it’s not possible to recover some of the original finishes, as far as paint, internal and external fixtures, parts of the wooden structures are concerned. Reconstruction of what cannot be recovered will follow a philological criterium in order to reconstitute the building based on historical, stylistic and environmental research linked to the context and typology of the building. The roof will be repaired using recovery tiles of the same dimensions and material as the pre-existing ones. Drainpipes and hoses in copper, as well as clamps and hooks. Window sills and other decorative elements in pietra serena stone in slabs with visible surfaces. The building is to be completely repainted in the external facades. The external daubing was programmed as follows: lime mortar and sand for the first and second coatings, applied following the trend of the existing wall, without guidelines, with finishes in pit lime, paint and lime in ulterior coatings. The internal daubing was done with hydro-repellant varnish. Internal fixtures in hardwood. Windows in varnished metal painted in traditional two-light paint, complete with motorised rolling shutters to match. As far as the external spaces are concerned, the internal garden will maintain its grassy pavement, with previous development of a sidewalk paved in terracota tiles or  with pietraforte on the side of the building, where the apertures can be found. The plaster for the surrounding wall of the internal garden will maintain the same characteristics as the rest of the external walls.

List of architectural interventions expected to entail internal or external modifications:


development of a sidewalk with a 1.00 m depth on the inside of the garden as well as along the external side, made in terracotta or sandstone


reopening of aperture facing the internal garden, demolition of the internal staircase, development of a biological bi-compartment septic tank, construction of a condominial access for pedestrians, construction of the vehicle entrance for the condominium, construction of one commercial real-estate unit, construction of one residential real-estate unit on two floors, facing the internal garden, development of a private parking lot with space for 9 cars, after demolition of the cement which currently produces an inclined floor, repositioning the whole construction on a perfectly horizontal plane, complete with staircase to the upstairs residences, and elevator, development of a one-room housing unit, accessible from the back garden, development of one terraced house, as a result of the transformation of the volume of the ex-dressing rooms, with direct access from the back garden.


Reopening of walled-up window in the volume where the ex-stage was located, reopening of the apertures facing the yard, through a walkway to access the new residential areas, construction of a new inter-floor slab, possible thanks to recovery of the surface area on the ground floor destined to the parking lot, development of six real-estate units for residential use, one-room lofts, and one two-room loft intended for residential use as well, modification of the apertures facing the back, demolition of spiral staircase, linking of first and second floors, development of a new staircase between first and second floors.


Construction of new toilet and internal redistribution for residential use


Development of a curb in concrete surrounding the wall, elimination of the Marseille roofing, substituting it with tiles, construction of four Dormer windows

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