Kengo Kuma’s new congress center in Padua

The ribbon-cutting has taken place 10 years after the competition. Padova Congress was conceived as a hub, starting from the Japanese technique of spatial layering.

Padova Congress is the name of the new congress center of the Venetian city fair, the largest of its kind in the Region. In the competition phase in 2012, Kengo Kuma’s project prevailed over seven other designers, including Gonçalo Byrne and Hans Kolloff. The construction site had started in 2016, but the works were slowed down by the discovery of asbestos and the pandemic. Today the structure has finally opened: located near the historic center and the train station, it can accommodate over 3,300 people. The main facade, highlighted by a high stone staircase, can be seen from the historic entrance to the fair, through the avenue onto which the exhibition pavilions symmetrically overlook.

The Padua Fair has a long history: it was born in 1920, and its original site was extended several times, up to the most recent intervention by Franco Stella in 1998. Pavilions 7 and 8, completed in 2002, belong to this. Today, 20 years later, the Japanese architect adds this last piece. It is a volume about twenty meters high, 130 long and 25 wide, which gives its back to a bundle of infrastructures outside the exhibition complex. The building “replaces the old Palace of Nations,” says Kuma, “whose sculptural portal we wanted to keep in line with the axis of the fair complex.” The typical arcades of the city are recalled on the facade by the rhythmic wooden colonnade, which defines a covered space on the fronts of the building, white and glazed. “The ideal model,” continues Kuma, “was the medieval Palazzo della Ragione, the city center.” Inside, a series of modular rooms explains the office, defined through spatial layering, a Japanese technique consisting of overlapping flexible spaces with different degrees of permeability. With 1,500 and 1,000 seats, the most spacious rooms could only be named after Giotto and Mantegna.

Padova Congress, Kengo Kuma, Italia, 2022
Padova Congress, Kengo Kuma, Italy, 2022. Courtesy Fiera di Padova

The inauguration of the new Kuma project falls on the 800th anniversary of the university, after which, in 2021, UNESCO recognized Padua Urbs Picta, eight sites and complexes with fourteenth-century pictorial cycles, including Giotto’s Scrovegni chapel. and the Palazzo della Ragione itself. “We are dealing with a work connected with the city,” declared Antonio Santocono, president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, “here, we will talk about progress and the future linked to a single territory.” The relationship with the university is fundamental, which “has been the city since its foundation.” says Daniela Mapelli, director of UniPd. “The congress center is part of the larger project of the Chilometro Blu (Blue Kilometer), an urban area dedicated to research and innovation which will include the new headquarters of the engineering faculty and the competence center.” The fair, continues Santocono, “is thus moving towards a new model, no longer merely commercial.” The mayor of the city, Sergio Giordani, underlines precisely this aspect: “the fair is no longer just an exhibition center, but a real hub for innovation.”

Latest on Architecture

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram