YEAR: 2014
NAME: International Competition for Reconstruction, Renovation and Facade Design of NEC, Sofia
CLIENT: UBA - Unions of Bulgarian Artists 
COLLABORATORS: Arch. F. Ominetti, M. Riggi



The existing building appears now in bad situation. It has a wrong interference of functions: the office rooms are too close to the exhibition spaces.
The building is a single object floating above its ground floor. It is organized as an overlap of levels without any visual and spatial connection. 
The Competition gives the opportunity to rethink a new development of the building, in its internal and external space, to adapt to the international standard for the exhibition places.  
We think that the aim of the Competition is the design of a new architectural space combined with a big flexibility of the space, in addition to the functional adaptation, thermal and electrical installations.
The existing building will be emptied of its internal partitions and of its staircase. Its concrete structure will be shown. The existing facade, made with precast elements, will be embedded with a new shell giving to the art gallery a more massive aspect. The new facade, with its appearance, seems floating on the ground floor. The stone coating and the small dimension of the splayed windows increase the massive aspect of the building.
The new art gallery grows of one floor, housing a new café and a panoramic terrace, and in the bottom is lowered, placing new office rooms (for rent) facing the two roads.
The basement, that contains the storage of work of art, will be emptied of its internal partitions because it is meant as a single solid. It will be modelled as a sculpture. It will have a different coating material from the upper building (that is the real Art Gallery). The space between the two elements, the basement floor and the floating building, will become the big atrium of the Art Gallery and also a commercial, exhibition and leisure area.  
A big hole will be opened through the horizontal structure of the existing building from the top to the bottom. This big vertical void joins with the wide horizontal space of the ground floor, becoming a single space articulated and complex, that will be the architectural structure of the new art gallery. This space, changing its shape from expanded, horizontal to strait, vertical, rises toward the top of the building. This big void discloses, with the moving back of its walls, the construction elements (pillars and beams).
There is in it a scenic steel staircase that connects all the levels. The curvy staircase has its beginning in the wide foyer of the ground floor and its arrival in an open Square at 24,0m high (the panoramic terrace).
The main foyer is a big exhibition hall for large size painting and huge sculptures, artistic performances that can’t be shown in the upper halls.
All the existing partitions will be removed to create a single and wide “square”, a high foyer in which there is the beginning of the new staircase that is in grey stone. 
The big exhibition foyer is totally visible from the roads and from the back yard. 
The glass long wall encloses the foyer allowing the main visibility of the building from the outside.
The little hollow volumes, located in the edge of the ground floor, host the rooms for renting, as smaller shops or little art galleries, the toilets for the visitors and leaseholders and the kitchen of the cafe that opens on the “square” .
The cafe, accessible from the inside and the outside of the art gallery thanks to a movable system of glass walls, can remain open also when the gallery is closed.
At the centre of the “square” there will be a multifunctional hall that can be closed with heavy motorized drapes. 
In the big foyer will be exhibited also huge installations and big sculptures (in our renders you can see, for example two huge sculptures: Calamita Cosmica by Gino de Dominicis and Sfera by Arnaldo Pomodoro).
The bookshop, placed in the East side of the ground floor, is closed by glass walls. It’s accessible from the hall and the street. Inside, the bookcases are not so high to guarantee the visual permeability. Close to the bookshop there are the reception\info point made with a long stone desk and the elevators. The “square “is in continuity with the back yard through the glass doors. It is a relax place, with stone benches, wrapped from a green wall. 
After the first eleven stone steps, the staircase in steel begins without interruption and arrives to the terrace.
It’s a lightweight white steel structure that crosses the high void in all the directions.
The white colour, the glass fencing and the steel keller steps ensure the maximum permeability to the sunlight.
The staircase brings to the interstitial level. It will be realized to void the upper floors of the rented rooms, which interfere with the exhibition halls. They will be directly accessible from the main foyer e from the elevator without interfere with the other functions of the Art Gallery. 
All the upper levels, emptied of the rented rooms combined in the new interstitial level, are mainly exhibition halls.
All the false ceilings of the will be removed so the height of the hall will increase of about 80cm from current condition. The ceiling structure in concrete, now visible, will become the characteristic element of these spaces. The rail tracks are located between the concrete beams; on them the sliding panels and the lighting system are anchored.
There are two panel types: a movable panel on wheels and on tracks that guarantee the maximum flexibility of the exhibition halls. The panels on wheels could be used also to divide one hall in two. It is possible because each exhibition hall has two different entrances. Since it is impossible to have a natural lighting, it has been chosen an artificial lighting system that guarantees a constant vision during all the day. The halls have an appropriate storage directly connected with a freight elevator.
The library is an intimate place divided from the exhibition hall with a long wall\bookcase. The canon à lumière, which from the roof goes down inside the facade, brings the sunlight inside the reading room. Three splayed windows put in contact the library with the park opposite. 
In the fourth floor the exhibition hall is smaller than the others because there are the UBA offices. The new office rooms don’t interfere any more with the exhibition area. The flexibility is guaranteed by the use of movable partitions made with cabinets and glass walls or plasterboards panels. A multitude of high windows allows the entrance of the natural lighting. A new archive room and an appropriate toilet number are the other functions inserted in this floor. 
The last steps of the white staircase bring to the cafe of the terrace. This floor places also a multifunctional room for conferences, workshops, events, etc. 
The panoramic terrace, now usable, will be the suitable conclusion at the exposition path that carries the visitor from the foyer toward the “light”. Behind the multifunctional hall there is a big technical premise in which are located the heating and air conditioning machines.
The light, natural and artificial, is one of the principal elements of this project.
The main foyer, the bigger and representative space of the project, has a natural light that enhances the spatial quality.
The sunlight, which enters inside the main foyer, from the narrow windows above the commercial volumes and from the glass walls of the perimeter, accentuates the suspension of the volume above the ground floor. The sunlight, within the high void that goes back through the centre of the building, dissolves the scenic staircase.
In the ground floor the artificial light, with spotlights placed in the false ceiling, guarantees a directed or diffuse lighting  according to different uses (for exposition, for staging of the conference room).
In the exhibition halls has been chosen an artificial light to ensure a constant and controlled viewing experience during the different hours of the day. 
The lighting, directional and sliding in rail tracks, can adapt to any necessity also modifying its intensity depending on the effect it wants to achieve.
The project, even if modifies the original spatial configuration involves few structure modifies.
The project has, as its priority, the conservation of the existing construction system, except eventual consolidation works. The only intervention in the reinforced concrete floors is the cutting of some parts to realize the void that will house in the staircase. The precast concrete elements of the façade, not removed, are inserted inside the new shell. This choose will have a good economic returns. 
The new facade is often 70cm. Its thickness is necessary for inserting the existing concrete panels and to improve the thermal capacity of the façade with the technology of the thick external cladding. Also the ducts pass through, from the roof to the toilets.
A new floor will be inserted: an interstitial level will be realized at 2,7m high from the ground. It will be hanged on the existing beams of the first floor. The structure is in steel beams with the principle beams anchored at the pillars. The secondary beams, anchored in one side to the principle beams, will be connected at the other part with the steel tie-beams.