Gallery: Colossal Green Volcano Building Rises in Italy


Inspired by the surrounding landscape, Vulcano Buono has a gently sloping profile that rises from the earth as a grassy green knoll. The structure’s roof is carpeted with a vegetative layer of over 2,500 plants that helps to insulate the interior spaces and reduces the structure’s visual impact so that it’s barely visible from space. Renzo Piano clearly has a penchant for grassy hills – see also the undulating green roof that tops the California Academy of Sciences.

A 150 meter-wide clearing in the volcano’s crater lends space for an outdoor theater, a market, and a sloping pine forest. Rising around this heart is a concentric series of circles that form the center’s commercial areas. The volcano’s slopes are held by structural components meant to evoke trees – each “trunk” sprouts three or four supporting “branches”.

The roof of Vulcano Buono is laced with a series of skylights fitted with solar-control double-pane glass that allows daylight to filter through the mall, reducing energy needs from lighting. The interior of the complex houses shops, a supermarket, a 2,000 seat cinema, restaurants, and a hotel. Renzo Piano describes the building as “a contemporary take on a greek marketplace, a void as a place for events, meetings, dialogue and the gathering of people”.

+ Renzo Piano Building Workshop

+ Vulcano Buono

Photos by Moreno Maggi


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  1. Robert Sultani August 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Corruption and Misappropriation of tax money.. Now Italy is in the shit and they are chasing all citizens like parasites trying to get money out of people that they dont have nor required to pay….

  2. anothervoice April 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

    And this would be at least the third time this project has been posted.

  3. jmanooch February 14, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Diane, These are good points, and they remind me to be more civil and civilised when I have not experienced something first hand.

  4. Diane Pham February 14, 2011 at 9:24 am

    I’ve actually visited this shopping center, and naples in fact has one of the highest square footage of commercial center per inhabitat than any other part of europe. The way Italians shop is much different than Americans do, and the offer between most small shops in town are quite different than what you’d find in a commercial center such as this.

    With that said, this is one of the most discreet shopping centers I’ve ever seen, and you can’t even see the parking from the road – just from the aerial view. In fact, this has been one of the problems with the center, as people are having a problem seeing it from the highway and it’s suffering from a lack of visitors.

    I think it’s an interesting design, with a real concerted effort to be green through lighting and ventilation, and fit amongst the natural landscape. Unfortunately, the design doesn’t completely match up with the end goal of those who invested in building it as a shopping center. I think it could one day make a great visitor’s center, stadium or something more culturally enriching.

  5. rhuigen February 12, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Apart from the architecture, this suburban commercial centre is cannibalising the centres of the surrounding towns. On top of that it’s generating unnecessary automobility. In my opinion these two major omissions in the philosophy of this project can never be compensated by the fabulous design and some grass on the roof. I agree that on a smaller scale it would make a perfect museum/park/shopping centre. In Napoli!

  6. bronco_ August 10, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I agree with the people that criticize the idea that seems to be stealing under this whole idea of building different (automatic means we are green). I agree that everybody must develop a personal sensibility and have a personal well oriented opinion that has its basis on doubt.

    Any way I imagine that a parking lot would be much better on the under ground, as long as it does not undermine any water source or stability of the ground for surrounding areas.
    An underground parking lot is much better then a surface parking lot. Quality of the air can be assured by natural or new technology ventialtion\air depurator systems.

    IN ANY CASE. the thing is this: we have to decide if we wanna keep growing and keep the developing\progress pace at this speed.
    Or if we wanna do the revolution of CONTROLLED DECREASE of our status so decide to stop growing and living in a much more self conscious “native indian” (to cut it straight to the point) way.

    I think that a half way can be found.
    I think that we should decrease the progress speed, tru politics and good long view policies and incentives by govt. and local communities.

    In Udine, Italy a stadium in 2011 or 2012 should be made and will be totally green they say, rain water will be reused, and solar power will give energy to a whole sorrounding area. The stadium that will be remade is Stadio Friuli. It will be the first in Italy made, like the stadiums are located in Japan.

    Sorry for long post.

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  8. beauxvyne January 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    I wouldn’t mind seeing something like this in an urban setting. Would make a great museum, park, library, etc. I agree the parking lots detract from the concept.

  9. feline74 October 24, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Depending on how close to Vesuvius it really is, this design could be more than a little ironic someday . . .

  10. jmanooch September 25, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Glad that others are coming in here and deprecating this nonsense.

    The problem, though, is not this building: it’s one more piece of pretentious, greenwash sh*te, that we sustainability designers have to wade through. Who cares? Plus ca change, etc.

    The problem is that this (kind of) website, or at least this author, seems to have no shame in talking it up as if it’s a breakthrough in both aesthetic and sustainability design terms. Skylights as green innovation? Mega car-parks instead of /any/ other solution? Oh for pity’s sakes.

    There’s right now, between the sustainability and design/architecture worlds, a very brittle connection being tacitly struck, which goes like this: we will only achive sustainability with great design (the sustainability practitioners and ideologues are learning…), and great design is only great if sustainable, truly speaking (the architects etc are learning…).

    This kind of article seriously damages that synergy, that deal. It makes out that starchitects can do what the f*ck they like, and actually pretty righteous websites – as this one started out – will make it look and sound great. If websites like this lionise projects like this, the environmental movement is dead: it’s just fragmented hopes and struggles.

    Get with the plan: talk up the good stuff, call out the bad.

  11. sooperhooman September 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Yes surely they could have provided underground parking if they were already constructing a huge mound. Or they could have constructed similar shaped parking facilities that look like mini-canoes.

  12. Neath September 24, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I have to agree that what seems like a potentially interesting project gets completely skewered by a mammoth parking lot circling it. Parody in architecture may have been interesting in the 70’s but now it just seems stupid, well, retarded is probably the better word. We haven’t learned anything it seems.

  13. kingpj September 23, 2009 at 6:47 am

    This reminds me how unserious some of our leaders are when making policies…its time some of us stood up and supported the noble cause, our environment our future.

  14. jmanooch September 15, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    This kind of post is so indicative of what is wrong with the contemporary environment, and in particular environmental design community. You seem stuck in ‘wow’ mode. Can you really not summon any deeper thought – not even any deeper aesthetic sensibility – than ‘oh hey, kewl, grass on a volcano thingy!’? Really??

    Commercial centre which is ‘vital’? Well, blow me down with a feather, haven’t heard that one before. Okay, I have – almost everywhere anyone wants to build anything, ahem – but what I /haven’t/ heard before is this “structural components meant to evoke trees” instead of, you know, trees. And the presentation of extraordinary breakthrough things called ‘skylights’ that…wow…let light through the roof and…well, prevent other lighting being required.


    This stuff has become a parody of itself. You deviate so far from recognisable sustainability thinking it’s honestly hard to know where to start. Sustainable transport and infrastructure? /Accessible/ outdoor green spaces? Creative and technical and measurable sustainable design?

    Wow? More like bow-wow: just wag your tail when some mega-architect says so.

  15. isitgreen September 15, 2009 at 10:01 am

    So was the building design more hideous than a parking lot that it had to be well tucked away under a green hill, but allowing to put the parking lot on display? Or is the parking lot a representation of the molten lava from the volcano that hardens over surface? Just for a concept????
    feels like Inward views for buildings and habitable spaces and a wonderful view of the green mound for the parked cars…

  16. isitgreen September 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

    So what happens to the monolithic parking lot surrounding it.. is it to represent the ash that a volcano spits out? or molten lava hardened to form an enormous and hideous parking lot? Is it that the building was more hideous than the parking lot, that it had to be well tucked away while putting the parking lot on display?

  17. seamusdubh September 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Now if they made the parking lot the same way, then you’d have something.

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