A Lot of Work for Nearly Nothing: Courthouse Renovation in Brixen
Client: Gemeinde Brixen
Architects: Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli, Treviso
Location: Piazza Duomo, Brixen/Bressanone (IT)
Among tourists, Brixen’s old town counts among the main attractions of South Tyrol. However, for years a nearly imperceptible change has been underway behind the historical façades, one that has now reached the buildings surrounding the cathedral square. Two of these structures – the former Department of Finance and parts of the old courthouse – will soon join a new building to form the central branch of the municipal library. However, Ex Tribunale will not entirely lose its former function: after its renovation by Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli, the second upper storey has been occupied by the arbitration court for the Brixen region and the Val Gardena.
The building dates from the Middle Ages, when it was briefly the resident of Brixen’s prince-bishops. Later it was home to town’s captains, municipal judges and, for a short time even an archduchess of Innsbruck, before being repurposed as a government building in 1803. The first upper level was last repaired in 2009. However, several unsuitable additions, such as a glass banister for the stairway and an unappealing parquet floor, remained.
In the most recent renovation, the Venetian architects concentrated on recreating, as far as possible, the spatial impression and ornamentation from the time before 1803. Newly added elements should be recognized as such only by those in the know. The stairways have been complemented with massive balustrades with thick handrails, while the postmodern front door gave way to a glass replacement with a heavy wooden frame, and larchwood planks were laid on the floor. A few of the interior doors are also new; they are of knotty Swiss pine and feature broad soffits. In contrast, the architects have made the lighting fixtures delicate yet space-defining. On their website, Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli summarize the renovation: “In some cases, our job is to do nothing. But that ‘nothing’ requires a lot of work.”