Richard Meier & Partners' new Italcementi I.Lab is one of the architecture practice's most sustainable designs - and the first building with LEED Platinum accreditation in Italy. The research and development centre is the latest addition to the empire of Italcementi, one of the five biggest cement and concrete producers globally.
Here, Meier's signature graceful, simple white forms are articulated (unsurprisingly) in concrete, cannily demonstrating the range of qualities the material can offer. The building's gleaming surface won't weather - this particular concrete 'is self-cleaning and therefore will always be white', the architect points out.
Designed to support the company's leading technological research and concrete innovation team, the building has a V-shaped layout, following the triangular site. This way, the technical and administrative wings - featuring high-performance custom facades - form a central outdoor space for the employees.
Addressing eco-issues such as water efficiency, energy (via photovoltaic panels, solar panels and geothermal wells) and sustainable materials and resources, the centre also includes conference rooms, a two-story multipurpose hall and an impressive top-lit cantilevered boardroom. The team paid special attention to the roof, treating it as a fifth façade. Here, a system of skylights brings natural light into the offices, labs and circulation space, also creating a playful perforation when seen from above.
Richard Meier & Partners - led by Meier, Michael Palladino, James R Crawford, Bernhard Karpf, Reynolds Logan, Dukho Yeon - may have reached the grand age of 50 this year but it's showing no signs of slowing down. Among its works in the pipeline, we're particularly looking forward to seeing the practice's first project in South America - an office building in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro - reach its completion.