In Italy, Richard Meier’s New i.lab

It’s not the first time that Richard Meier & Partners has used TX Active cement, the revolutionary product that’s laced with titanium oxide to absorb ultraviolet rays – and break down pollutants.

No, the first was the celebrated Jubilee Church in Rome, completed in 2003.

This one is i.lab, a research and development center for Italcementi, the company that actually created and patented the new kind of cement.

i.lab is a 23,000 square-meter structure located in the Kilometro Rosso (Red Kilometer) Science and Technology Park, along the A4 highway linking Milan and Venice.

“It’s smog-eating concrete,” says Vivian Lee, the project’s architect, about TX Active.  “We used it for a curtain wall, with a fiberglass formwork.  The surface is so smooth, with no air holes.  You can feel the weight, but it’s pure white.  It’s distinctive – there’s nothing like it out there.”

In addition to exposed concrete wall panels, columns and soffits, i.lab also showcases the material in curtain wall mullions and perforated translucent concrete panels that filter light.

“The geometry is very suggestive of the triangle shaped site,” she says.  “Its peak cantilevers out 19 meters like a triangular arrow that points.”

The roof of the structure forms a virtual fifth façade, perforated with a system of skylights that direct natural light into offices, circulation corridors, and laboratory spaces, animating interiors with constantly changing natural light.

“It’s a great work environment, with lots of natural light and high-performance glazing,” she says.  “There are also high-quality acoustics – it faces the freeway but you can’t hear it because of the screen that faces it.  It’s expressive eye candy for architects.”

The building’s not only a great place for visiting clients and designers, she says, but a place to show people what concrete can do.

If its site inspired its ultimate design, its challenges lay in assuring a LEED Platinum certification, one of the first in Italy.  But the design team took tha t in stride.

“Any challenge is fun – it’s what drives us,” she says.  “It was a collaborative effort for an integrated building.”

For more on Italcementi’s i.lab, go here

For more on Richard Meier & Partners Architects, go here

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