Cassina Innovation House
Laurent Troost Architectures
Rejane Gaston, Landa Bernardo, Juliana Leal, Nayara Mello, Marco Antônio de Oliveira
Radyr Gomes de Oliveira Junior - SEMTEPI - PREFEITURA DE MANAUS
Built in 1896 and ruining since 1960, the degraded facades taken over by vegetation had generated a powerful image which was important to deal with. The beauty of the ruin's imperfection raises interest, questions and invites reflection on the past and the action of time and man in the city and on heritage buildings in general. It is not surprising that the imagery of the ruin, with its poetic and plastic potentialities, was explored by countless artists and architects: Piranesi, Gordon Matta-Clark, Robert Smithson, Lúcio Costa (Museum of the Missions), Paulo Mendes da Rocha (Pinacoteca de São Paulo and Capela Brennand) and Ernani Freire (Parque das Ruínas), to name a few.
In this case, the preservation of the ruin condition also turned the intervention into a manifesto because it is also the last façade with plaster pigmented with red sandstone powder. To let this specificity visible and to paralyze its degradation, meticulous restoration works have been carried out (cleaning, stabilization, consolidation, protection, etc).
Also related to the ruins imagery, the Cassina houses an exuberant garden behind the main façade creating its very own microclimate. Whom access the building via the walkway crossing the void over the garden is reminded of Manaus intrinsic reason for being: the Amazon rainforest. This lush tropical garden, associated with glass, transparencies and reflections, mixes Cassina's ruin History with the Future of the Innovation House in a space associated with technology, virtuality and contemporaneity.
This digital technology and entrepreneurship center is Manaus Digital District’s inaugural landmark. With 1,586 m2 spread over 4 floors, the Cassina houses spaces to foster coworking and meeting for digital economy makers: multifunctional areas, lounges, meeting rooms, laboratories, training rooms and a restaurant on the top floor with privileged views over the Historic Center and the Rio Negro.
By being a building re-use project, the respect for the use of natural resources might seem obvious, but needs to be remembered as a strategic decision to re-use an abandoned Heritage building instead of building from scratch elsewhere in the city. It has also been thought as a landmark aiming to trigger urban re-development of this derelicted area form the city center and might therefore be understood as a sustainable re-use urban development starting point.
Thought of as a four-columns-tower built in a empty shell, the prefabricated steel structural concept’s simplicity helped to build the Cassina Innovation House in only 7 months during the pandemic. Not only during the works, the prefabrication system allowed for very few workers on site allowing for social distancing from Covid-19 in hard-hit Manaus, but also the Cassina Innovation House now proposes large, generous, well ventilated, unconventional and de-densified open floor plans adapted to physical distancing requested in a (post-)pandemic society.
The building has been carefully designed to minimize energy use by using passive energy strategies: in addition to cross ventilation in all floors due to the reduced width of the building by inserting the garden (which also creates a microclimate with low temperature), the Cassina features a ventilated void between the roof slab and the restaurant’s ceiling, in addition to large eaves in all directions, ensuring a thermally comfortable environment. The East facade, hit by rising sun, has received contemporary frames with tempered glass fins to create a ventilated double-skin facade keeping the heat out.
Due to fireproof regulations, the building’s height did require an external staircase as the safest solution. The question of how to build an external staircase within an existing built envelope was therefore one of the starting point that tented towards the inner tropical garden solution. And, to turn this challenge into a differential for the project, the external staircase turned into a tropical garden, designed as a natural environment feature able to filter pollution, to produce oxygen, to reduce noise and temperature, but also to attract urban natural wildlife, which is already happening: frogs and birds already have nested in the greenery inside the building.
Summarizing, the Cassina Innovation House, through the insertion of a tropical forest and an industrial steel structure within the consolidated ruins of a heritage house, can be considered as the synthesis of Manaus economic cycles: the rubber era, its decline, the Industrial District era and the new digital economy era.