Project: contemporary art factory

The Mill

The project regenerates the mill outside the historic city of Lucca, Tuscany, prioritising connections between people, nature and art to boost their well being.

The scheme was designed using the principles of biophilic which seeks to satisfy people’s physical and emotional need for nature and art, by integrating the natural world, natural materials, maximising natural light, greenery and outward views and creating spaces for artists to express themselves and show their arts.

The project is a 20,000 square meter site outside the city of Lucca. Comprising museum, shops, restaurants, galleries, cinemas and office/studio spaces set within public gardens, running track and sports camps, the mixed-use ‘savarin’ project includes the re-use of the existing mill, a brutalist building built in the 1930s.

The design unites the three main blocks, creating connections with bridges, through the site and with the surrounding district and the local train station, encouraging people to use public transport.

At its heart is the creation of a major new public space, surrounding the brutalist buildings, considered the genius loci of the place and offered solutions that breathe life into it.

As well as restoring these buildings,  glass boxes which will connect them,  with stepped green bridges, terraces and staircases will enable people to walk up the buildings all the way to the rooftops, revealing unexpected new public spaces and views across the city.

Glass panels that range in height from 10 to 25 feet (three to seven meters) will form the longer walls of the pavilions and of the bridges, and a diagonal wood structure will form the roofs. The roof panels will be open to allow the trees to reach their height, some will be enclosed to cover the footpaths and the area with seating.

People love to live in memorable places.  As the mill’s amazing concrete structure goes straight through the middle of our site, we knew we mustn’t miss the chance to add texture and character to make an idiosyncratic arrival experience for the building’s residents.To not compete with the soulful materiality of this historic building, the lobby is transparent and gently catches your attention, inviting you in.

The interior of the 1,900-square-foot (177-square-metre) lobby will create a generous volume for maximum impact. Inside finishes to contrast the existing concrete detail, such as bright colours and natural flooring are used.

The ground floor will feature restaurants, bars, a public newspaper and periodical library, auditorium and other spaces for the public. The basement will have the area for the gym, the hot yoga spot, swimming pool and spa.

Gallery levels 2 + 3 will feature exhibition spaces for contemporary art. The idea is to create a hub for all arts, for artists to work and temporarily live there, as well as for the public to connect with contemporary arts.

Levels 4 + 5 will incorporate artist studios, for them to live and work in, as well as artisanal studio, to work and sell as a small market.

Level 6 will have the cinema and recreational area with ping pong, football tables and spaces to relax.

Level 7 + 8 will be for the restaurants, kitchens, bars and cookery schools.

One of the buildings will instead incorporate a multidisciplinary space/theatre that will take a few floors.

The design is characterised by a landscaped, sheltered public park on the roof, accessible from ground level by connecting bridges. The movement and access throughout the building are designed to be intuitive, escalators, lifts and staircases are open to the same areas providing a legible and inclusive experience to all visitors.

The park and the rest of the building are enclosed by distinctive pavilions, which wrap around the building like a protective shell. These roofs open to draw in light and rain for natural irrigation. Timber was an appropriate material to enclose the park – it is organic in nature and appearance, strong, adaptable and is sustainably sourced.

The area around the buildings is designed to encourage people to use the new park and shops at the weekend – as well as during the week – creating a lively new community facility. Six levels of shops, cafes and amenities sit above the underground station, the arcade making use of natural light to minimise energy consumption and welcome people into the building.

Most public areas will be naturally ventilated, making use of passive cooling measures, and the development features rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling, adding to its sustainable credentials. The solar panels in the parking area and the sport area will provide for the energy necessary.


Facts + Figures






20.000 sq m


Lucca, Tuscany