Restoration and re-use of the Church-Fortress of San Pietro in Lingueglietta \ LDA Studio

• September 25, 2011

The aim of the project was to recover the function of this cultural asset through a reinterpretation of the dual identity which is its distinctive characteristic: a church and a fort.

Standing as the basis of the planning process, this dual identity is explained to visitors by means of an illustrative itinerary going as far as the roof, which provides a view of the Ligurian Sea and the system of coastal fortifications of which the fort is a part.

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

This is a possibly unique specimen of a place of worship (dating back to the mid-12th century) converted into a fort as a defence against the second wave of barbarian invasions in western Liguria in the mid-16th century.

The church was well suited to its new role. Its hilltop location gave it a good view of the sea and it stood with high, solidly-built walls at the entrance to the village. The conversion work entailed the closure of the side entrance, the replacement of the original roof with a vault supporting a fortified terrace with embrasures in the high walls, the opening of embrasures above the main door and on the north side and the construction of two corner turrets on the roof.

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

The building comprises a single nave with a semi-circular apse illuminated by three single-lancet windows whose round arches were cut from a single slab of stone. The outside walls are made from local stone, perfectly dressed and partly plastered, and the apse and facade are embellished by finely-sculpted decorative features.

A careful study of the close and complex relations between the building materials, construction techniques, master stonecutters and the history of the village and the monument was essential for an understanding of how it was built and converted and which of its parts should be enhanced in order to increase its interest as a tourist attraction.

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

The building was subjected to a painstaking study by means of a detailed metric survey, laboratory analysis of its principal materials and degree of degradation, and identification of the forms of decay common to its various parts. This led to an understanding of the various problems that would have to be faced in the work of restoration and above all of the range of coordinated treatments to which the building would have to be subjected.

In specific terms this entailed investigation of the various types of stonework in the building’s walls, the plasters used in construction and in subsequent phases, the forms and degree of degradation of the flooring, the state of conservation of the roof of the main vault and the apse, the solidity or degradation of elements built in wood and iron, and the composition and construction of the architectural features embellishing the form of the church.

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

The in-depth investigation of the complex set of relations between materials, building techniques and degradation was thus an essential step for the subsequent planning and execution of the restoration project.

Begun in September 2006 and completed in July 2010, the restoration work involved about 35 people. In addition to the design, planning and management staff, they comprised construction workers, restorers, archaeologists, carpenters, locksmiths, electricians, plumbers, tinsmiths, stonecutters, glaziers, gardeners, model-makers and installation workers. A total of nine companies were employed on the site to produce the finished project as it may be seen today.

Work on the site was not only the time for the testing and implementation of the executive project, it also led to discoveries regarding the building’s history and the materials, some hidden, which had been used in its construction.

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

It necessitated continual and repeated revision and updating of the original plans. Only through direct contact with the building itself and thorough familiarity with the materials – some buried – used in it was it possible to reformulate the plans and pursue a properly coordinated restoration work.

The principal elements of the restoration work were the following:

  1. consolidation of the foundations, walls and roofing vaults;
  2. restoration of the flooring, plasterwork and architectural features;
  3. restoration of doors, windows and decorative features;
  4. restoration of the roofs of the apse and the 18th-century bell tower.
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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

The most substantial intervention work was the reconstruction of the roofing covering several parts of the building, made necessary by the degree of degradation resulting from a complete lack of maintenance.

The re-roofing of the main barrel vault and the demolition of its incongruous wood and marseillaise tile covering entailed the removal of about 80 cubic metres of various types of materials which had accumulated above the vault (the vault support was obviously not removed). This had probably occurred after the demolition of the defensive roof terrace (built at the level of the terracotta drains still visible on the facade) in order to construct the two slopes needed for a pitched roof.

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

The 16th-century fortified roof terrace was actually the reason for substantial leaking of water inside the church – the drainage of water down the facade was perennially blocked by the terrace’s high defensive walls.

The cleaning and consolidation of the upper interstices of the vault with the injection of mortar-and-resin grout was followed by the installation of a small reinforced concrete cap of thickness between 6 and 12 centimetres. Made of natural hydraulic cement composite NHL5, the cap was fixed to the vault with steel hooks and above it was installed a new covering in Rheinzink (zinc-titanium).

The restoration of the apse roof required the consolidation of the vaulted structure, severely compromised by the subsidence of the foundations underneath the apse. This was accomplished by the insertion of reinforced concrete underpinning units. The roof was then re-covered with tiles of locally-produced slate of various shapes and sizes.

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

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Image courtesy LDA Studio | Photo by Andrea Bosio

The restoration of the interior and exterior plasterwork was made complex by the various types of wall-covering identified and their differing degrees of disrepair. Fourteen mineralogical-petrographic and fabric analyses carried out with a reflecting optical microscope and three infra-red spectrophotometric analyses made it possible to determine that the materials used for mortars and plasterwork were of local origin and were bonded with a mixture of lime and marine (or river) sand or sand from local pliocene marine deposits. The few areas of coloured plasterwork (in the apse) subjected to restoration were found to have been pigmented with cadmium red-orange, red-orange with iron trioxide and green earth.

The restoration of the floor paving was one of the most demanding phases of the entire operation. The abysmal condition of the flooring was due mainly to complete neglect and lack of maintenance, leading to cracks and fragmentations in the paving stones still visible today. In the apse and the entrance some sections of flooring had been removed and replaced by concrete covered with green carpeting.

The first priority was the conservation of the original flooring, despite its serious degradation. In areas where it was completely compromised, the paving stones were numbered, surveyed, photographed, carefully lifted and then replaced in their original positions after a proper base had been laid using cement and an electro-welded grid.
The areas affected by archaeological excavations or where there was no proper flooring at all were resurfaced with grey sandstone slabs from the Verezzo quarry near Sanremo.

Besides the specific conservation work involved, the intervention at the site has tried to introduce removable innovative features to go alongside the original structure.
These new parts were required to recover the monument’s functional utility, providing it with the technological equipment needed for its re-use in the following ways:

  • first of all to disseminate awareness of the monument and the history of the fortifications on this stretch of coastline;
  • for conferences;
  • for music seminars;
  • for exhibitions;
  • for civic functions.

The church and the fort are inextricably bound together, and neither prevails over the other. One of the aims of the projects was therefore to highlight the value of the fort, especially in the light of its role as part of the system of defences (towers, tower-houses, etc.) built during the wars of the 16th century. This was also a primary consideration in the enhancement of the site’s tourist value.
In line with this policy, widening a narrow access to the roof constructed in the past by demolishing a part of the barrel vault (underneath what later became the bell tower), a small weathering-steel staircase was installed. Fixed to the vault and hooked to the walls to reduce the effect of vibration, this fully-bolted staircase provides access to the embrasures and turrets on the roof used by sentries on guard duty in wartime.

The important new elements introduced by the project are the following:

  1. reopening of the side entrance;
  2. construction of ground-level elevated flooring, able to be dismantled and reinstalled as required by the use to which the monument is to be put;
  3. construction of the rheinzink roof, above which is a walkway connecting the lookout turrets;
  4. construction of a vertical access route.

New side entrance

Reopening the church’s side entrance, walled up in the 16th century, was one of the first operations to be carried out on the site. As well as providing access to the building from Piazza San Pietro, the operation made it possible to conserve and protect the main door, which had deteriorated as a result of long-term wear and tear.
Reproducing the size and surface appearance of the dressed stones surrounding it, when the building is closed the new side door becomes indistinguishable from the walls, fully re-evoking the 16th-century fortress.

New flooring

To accommodate the building’s new functions, elevated wood flooring was installed with weathering-steel supports, leaving space beneath the floor for wiring and other technological systems.

The new flooring was dictated by the need to install wiring and other technological systems out of sight without demolishing the existing flooring and to connect the various levels which were used during the various phases of the church’s construction.
The new fixed flooring is completely detached from the walls and the original flooring.

Two large central areas are left free with the original stone paving. For public events they are covered over with a mobile wood flooring supported by a steel and aluminium structure composed of modular platforms resting on adjustable feet.

New roof

In a re-evocation of the history of the roof terrace, the upper part of the vault roof was rebuilt and consolidated with NHL2 lime. Entirely covered with wooden planking and waterproofing and insulating materials, it was surfaced with rheinzink sheets. On the northern and southern sides, the ones probably used for defence and controlling the entrances to the village, a walkway was installed to provide access to the lookout turrets and a view of a long stretch of the Ligurian coast.
All the walkways are narrow, allowing a limited number of visitors to enjoy the panorama from the roof and the silence of the small village immersed in the olive groves of western Liguria.

Vertical access route

Access to the roof is provided by two weathering-steel staircases held together by a landing, designated for permanent exhibitions, above the main door of the building.

The stairways are made entirely of bolted steel plates anchored by screws to the stone walls.

+ Project credits / data

Restoration and re-use of the Church-Fortress of San Pietro in Lingueglietta.
Italy – Cipressa (IM)

Design Group Head: LDA Studio – Genoa | http://www.lda-studio.com/

Design Group:
Architect Luca Dolmetta
Architect Aldo Panetta
Engineer Giacomo Saguato
Geologist Giorgio Ligorini

Surveyors:
Architect Luca Dolmetta
Architect Chiara Bertoli
Architect Aldo Panetta
Draughtsman Luca Martini

Companies:
Negro F.lli Costruzioni Generali S.p.a.
ARTES s.r.l.
ExtraVega Milano Carpenteria e Design
IM.EL. Impianti Elettrici
ZP Zunino Pietre s.n.c.
Negro impianti idraulici
L.R.M. Laboratorio di Ricerca Metropolitana

Site Management:
Architect Luca Dolmetta – Director of Works
Architect Aldo Panetta – Securitu
Draughtsman Negro Piergiuseppe
Draughtsman Di Leo Piero
Draughtsman Martino Massino

Customer:
Town Council of Cipressa (IM)
Mayor: Draughtsman Filippo Guasco
Head of Contract Assignment: Draughtsman Giacomo Amerio

Chronology:
2004-06 plan
2007-10 execution

Cost:
Euro 865,580.00

Photography of completed work:
Andrea Bosio

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Category: Architecture, Culture

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