Places – People

Fabio Fornasari, Architect

Generally, architecture, art, culture have no meaning without the presence of the people who bring them to life. We also say that people make places, but it is equally true places make people. I am thinking of the Omero Museum and the grace it communicates; I experienced and tried to replicate it when I faced and still face designs with the museum, a museum full of people.

Perhaps, this attitude allowed the Liquid Lab Library – Sala Borsa Lab to receive the inclusion award dedicated to Maria Antonietta Abenante on the occasion of its third edition, in June 2023. This award was created by the Italian Libraries Association to remember the humanity, generosity, dedication and professionalism of Maria Antonietta Abenante, librarian of the city of Bari who made inclusion one of the constant commitments of her action.

The tender documentation required that the designs referred to innovative activities and services that had a collective dimension, aimed at enhancing the social and cultural role and the inclusive dimension.

Libraries, museums, and archives are three places that have the same purpose of conserving, protecting, allowing research within cultural heritage, about the documentation that represents us. Perhaps, archive is the least accessible for the needed skills, museum almost always requires a ticket price that already represents a barrier and, as we know, almost always does not allow full, complete interaction with the contents.

Among these places, the library is the only one where books can be taken home completely free of charge: reading has no-cost and is the basis of training. Furthermore today, many libraries have sections open to all forms of reading, on an equal footing, such as augmentative communication, Braille translations, audio books, writings in LIS (rewritings of tactile books with signing figures), prints with enlarged characters, easy reading characters, illustrated and tactile languages easy to read.

Culture and socialization

Therefore, perhaps, among all the cultural institutions (apart from exceptions such as the Omero Museum in Ancona and, in Italy, a few others inspired by it) libraries are certainly the areas where different forms of socialization are experimented around the diffusion of culture.

This awareness defines how to design the LIQUID LAB – SALABORSA LAB library. The design develops the concept of accessibility and inclusion in its broadest meanings. The project takes care of them starting from the competition notice up to the design of the spaces, from the sustainability of the design up to its realization, from the management of the spaces and the attention of the public who frequent it up to the care of the relationship with the neighborhood and the public who hasn’t still attended it.

Designing means taking care of a process with competence and assumption of responsibility; it means being aware that any action to break down barriers can create other ones that we are unable to recognize. For this reason, we have to keep alive the relational dimension of the design, the constant relationship with associations, groups, individuals that inhabit and inhabited the contexts.

Therefore, we must take care of people, listen, pay attention and dedicate time to them. A design should always demonstrate this intention through its elements and should also be able to measure the effects on people, groups, cultural welfare policies.

 Every single element conceived, designed, created, interpreted according to the usage must necessarily tend to create an opportunity for people to relate autonomously and safely with others aware of their own abilities, skills, emotions.

Practically, the design concerns the rearrangement of one of the libraries of the Municipality of Bologna planned by the Direzione dei Servizi delle Biblioteche as part of the PON METRO 14 -20 “Liquid Lab – azioni di supporto” project.

The purpose is to contribute to the fight against educational poverty and to the cultural growth of all segments of the population (with particular reference to fragile people and those usually excluded from the cultural offer), through the creation and strengthening of innovative services and activities starting from the circuit of libraries and reading.

Thus, Salaborsa Lab of Vicolo Bolognetti has become the territorial reference point of this vision in synergy with the network of neighborhood libraries, assuming the role of operational center for the elaboration and offer of transversal, with high connectivity, flexible, scalable, accessible, inclusive, legible laboratories and paths.

Useful also with two legs!

The architectural solutions could not be the simple application of manuals. The purposes expressed by the competition notice suggested to have a different attention.

We decided to start from the comparison of the imaginaries that inhabited these spaces, bringing out the traces of the experience. We reread them in a modern way. The first witness of the process is the iconic entrance articulated in five cyclopean shapes, five colored doors with coordinated profiles, constitutively linked to the topics and the search for an atheistic, secular, contemporary spirituality that we can find in various, contemporary and youthful literatures, in manga, in AI, in robotics, in comics, etc. Today, the spirituality driven out by Napoleon returns through new imaginaries feeding our stories.

The iconic program moves on tables finding their shape within the collaborative principle (we support each other for supporting): three tables but only one has four legs. The other two lean to expand the total surface and to be supported: we can read and work only collaborating together like those tables. The lack of two legs does not mean to be useless!

 Finally, there is the dome of the hall with a sound-absorbing function – it is made with waste – so that silence is not simply a rule among people but the “word in listening”. The great reading wave, the unitary space between the top and the bottom of the room, takes on a hybrid form that can also be reached using wheelchairs and allows you to read as you wish with the body freed from the chairs.