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Medieval Italian Fort Transformed Into Stunning Public Library

A renovation where past and future collide

One of the most historically significant structures in Bergamo, Italy, the Torre del Borgo was built in the 12th century as a sturdy, fortified tower. But time takes its toll on all things, and by the dawn of the second millennium, the building was structurally unsound, dark, and utterly unsuitable for the modern needs of the city.

But with a bold interior staircase and copper-clad addition, architect Gianluca Gelmini of CN10 gave the famous medieval tower a new life as the town’s public library.

The building’s stone facade and interior walls were carefully restored, but much of the work is unmistakably modern. The building has industrial-looking raw concrete floors, bordered on the lower level with white gravel separating the concrete from the stone.

An iron staircase wends its way up the middle of the building, stretching out into ramps and walkways to form the floors of the tower. The dark, smooth cladding of this clean-lined stairway contrasts nicely with the rough texture of the building’s original stone—like a material dialogue between the future and the past.

The copper-cladding of the new addition underscores this striking mashup of time and texture, with vertical and horizontal striations that have the feel of an optical illusion.

The material execution of this design is a kind of metaphor for the library itself: a space that artfully bridges the past and the present.