n. 50 Ottobre 2008
CIEB showroom and offices.
Architect Antonio Gardoni designed a showroom for CIEB, Italian manufacturers of electrical installations and switchboard. Launching this new facility with a total floor display of 400m², the client intended to add a new service to its regular repertoire: a department targeted at architects and technicians and specialized in integrated systems for custom lighting solutions and effects. The client asked for a space where light would be the main protagonist; it had to include offices, a meeting room, and a showroom capable of hosting larger presentations of new products for professionals customers.
All of this had to be organized within an empty portion of a warehouse with a 12m-high ceiling – an anonymous, nondescript building in prefabricated concrete. Gardoni based his design concept on the idea of light as a phenomenon; the architect managed to convince the client that, instead of using the showroom to display decorative luminaries, they should rather concentrate on exhibiting lighting systems and their capacities. Here, light becomes an almost physical experience. The space retains its original dimensions – Gardoni just adds a small glazed mezzanine with both of its long sides overlooking the showroom. The height of the ceiling is also left unchanged; the architect has only introduced a plasterboard counter-ceiling that curves to conceal the heating and air-conditioning systems. The entire space is filled with light’s direct opponent – darkness. Pitch black walls and ceiling have a soot-like texture obtained by means of a coating powder; the opaque, smoked tree-dimensional surface absorbs light and allows visitors to concentrate on product displays. All functional elements are finished in white glossy lacquer and appear suspended in the midst of obscurity, touching neither the black floor nor any of the vertical and horizontal surfaces. The shape of the display wall is inspired by the idea of freezing a photometric curve and transforming it into a solid element that unifies and wraps the whole space. The curved glossy surface forms shelves and niches showcasing different lighting systems: colour-changing devices, fibre optics, natural light simulators, etc. Electronic gear makes it possible to individually manage each system, modifying the ambience in endless ways. A tall wall separates the showroom space from the office area and contains the staircase that leads to the mezzanine floor. Additionally , this wall acts as a backdrop for displaying outdoor lighting fixtures. The staircase is a light experience on its own; the 12m-high space is framed by two black walls, and the stairs in white Carrara marble with incorporated fluorescent lamps become the only source of light. Handrails are substituted by recessed luminous diagonals.
The mezzanine floor – a glazed box suspended over the main space – houses further work-places as well as a meeting room. The only non-transparent wall in the meeting room is made of the same black wood as the flooring and becomes a backdrop for a curved feature in white marble: a conference table that seamlessly connects to a vertical panel incorporating an LCD presentation screen. In its turn, the showroom offers a small and relaxed lounge-meeting area where the architect once again mixes reality and illusion. A white PVC-covered sofa merges with the curve of the lacquered wall, while two custom designed armchairs with mirror-finished bodies and one-legged black base seem to float in the air.