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Wednesday23 July 2014

FIRST LOOK

First look: History underpins Sergison Bates’s Swiss piazza plan for Mendrisio

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Sergison Bates has won the competition to redesign Piazza del Ponte in Mendrisio, Switzerland, where Jonathan Sergison also holds a professorship at the Accademia della Architettura

Fending off competition from five other teams - three of which also teach at the influential school - the practice worked in collaboration with East to develop a scheme that will transform a leftover space into a new public square and City Library.

Monolithic in appearance, the new six-storey building echoes the medieval tower on the square, with bands of concrete and brickwork acting as a nod to what lies beneath the white render of its neighbours. A ground floor loggia wraps around three sides of the building fronting on to the piazza, picking up surrounding typologies.”We are responding to some of the forms and materials of the buildings in the square,” said Sergison, “but making them more extraordinary.”

Replacing a 1960s department store, the library’s footprint has been compressed to allow more space for the piazza, its irregular pentagonal plan responding to the inflected facades of other buildings that border the square. Internally, the programme is organised vertically, with large rooms surrounded by niches and a further panoramic loggia on the top floor.

The paving treatment uses materials already employed across the city, with the shared surface of granite sets, framed by bands of a contrasting stone, designed to host a variety of activities - from cinema screenings to the annual Easter procession. Revealing hidden levels beneath the surface, a series of grilles allow glimpses of a covered underground river running below the square.

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