A jaw-dropping feat of volcanic architecture has risen in the Italian city of Nola, just a stone's throw away from the cataclysmic Mt. Vesuvius. Designed by Renzo Piano, the Vulcano Buono ("good volcano" in italian) is an epic cone-shaped commercial center crowned with a sloping green roof. Piano's "good volcano" contributes a vital new space to the southern edge of the Nola commercial district, which is the most most important freight terminal complex in southern and central 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”.
Photos by Moreno Maggi