American black cherry, American Hardwood, GMP Studio, Rimini Convention Centre

Designed by German architects GMP Studio, the newly opened Rimini Convention Centre is one of the largest convention centres in Italy. It is also one of the most eco-sustainable buildings in the country with spectacular timber flooring made from American black cherry.

Spread over 38,000m2 the EURO€117 million (including land costs) centre has three separate entrances to two different conference and exhibition spaces seating 9,300.

“The Rimini Convention Centre,” integrates into an important urban context that is the object of an overall redevelopment project,” said Volkwin Marg, architect, GMP.

Amongst the 15 most important contemporary architecture firms in the world, GMP
Studio also designed Rimini Fairgrounds and will be coordinating this with a music auditorium and landscape design for the area.

The Convention Centre is a functional modular design of the conference and exhibition spaces that make it possible to host numerous different events simultaneously. The first space is laid out on two floors including the large 4,000m2 entrance foyer that looks out over the sea.

A striking ‘oyster-shell’ amphitheatre is located on the first floor, offering fixed seating for 1,600 with the option of dividing into two 800-seat auditoriums.

The shell shape reflects the location, references to the sea, the entrepreneurial heritage of the Rimini area and elicits Renaissance architecture, which is always a strong presence in Volkwin Marg’s concepts.

The second space is located immediately behind the first and is connected via the foyer and contains the main conference hall with 4,700 seats. This can also be divided using soundproof moveable partitions to create up to eight autonomous rooms plus a range of other smaller conference rooms and break-out areas.

The real organic beauty of the centre is to be found inside with the clean and contemporary American black cherry flooring.

After dismissing an original idea of using ‘industrial’ flooring made from recycled wood, architect Marg chose a different route that adopted a timber that was warmer, more refined and more eye-catching. Composed of 2x2x30cm slats assembled together into 20x30cm tiles, the flooring was installed by hand throughout over 40 rooms in the Convention Centre.

“Initially, the architects were looking for a product that was easy to source but still had unique characteristics,” said Maurizio Bernardi, of Adria Legno Service (San Clemente/Rimini), the company that planned, prepared and finally installed the floors.

“We stepped in with the idea of obtaining the best raw materials available on the market, respecting cost and quality requirements, to find a product that was ‘pseudo-cheap’ but of great visual impact.

“Through our relationship with Imola Legno, currently Italy’s number one timber distributor, we obtained the 10 containers of American black cherry necessary for supplying the 7,500m2 of finished flooring. The challenge was to transfer to the finished flooring, both the warm colours of the wood grain and the irregular nuances of American black cherry.

“We had to transform a ‘simple’ wood floor into a bona fide architectural element, where American black cherry complements and plays counterpoint to the final building. The resulting floor is ‘cheap and chic’.”

In the large ‘oyster-shell’ amphitheatre, a more elaborate installation process was used, starting from the basic slats.

“We had to resolve big problems of differences in height between the prefabricated structural elements of the shell and the finished floor,” added Bernardi.

“The amphitheatre was not designed to suit the moveable partition that divides the hemisphere into two halves. So in addition to the processing necessary to get the perfect curvature of the flooring, we also had to resolve the problem – probably the most complicated of all – of ensuring a tight fit between the partition and the floor.

“To do this, we first did a topographical study and then worked out a solution for realigning the levels. The solution was to produce steel frame members that were contoured and welded, using a numerically controlled process, so that the exact heights could be guaranteed for the different tiers.

These frame members were then fixed to the load bearing under-structure inside the shell to provide anchors for the installation of the horizontal and vertical elements.”

The steps were another challenge, with over 400 intermediate risers. These had to be perfectly in line with the rest of the interior, and like the rest of the flooring, were perfected using a cutting edge CAD-CAM process. The result is stunning.

“We essentially created a cabinet with a surface of over 2,000m2,” said Bernardi. “The architectural complexity and aesthetic harmony perfectly reflects the desires of the architect and represents a faithful execution of design in the final building. And here the American black cherry best expresses itself – for me it represents the most significant overall architectural element.”

Alongside the use of sustainable timber, the building includes a raft of other green building measures including a rainwater harvesting system to irrigate the landscape areas, installation of energy efficient condensation boilers and lighting controls and widespread use of eco-building materials.

The redevelopment of the area also saw the creation of a ‘green spoke’ pedestrian and bicycle route, from the Convention Centre, to the historical centre of Rimini and the marina.

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