Every town should have a comely library. Curiously named Lonate Ceppino, a few kilometres south of Varese, now has a remarkable one in a former chapel. The Lombard municipality with fewer than 5000 inhabitants had already made the deconsecrated Oratorio San Michele its civic repository of books in 2009. DAP Studio‘s award-winning architects Elena Sacco and Paolo Danelli were called in to effect a contemporary upgrade.
What they did was to restore the original building, maintaining its distinctive features and open spaces on two floors for the library itself and a meeting or exhibition room, and add a sleek, unashamedly modern external volume to house the stairs and ramps, storerooms, bathrooms and technical systems. The tall, narrow extension block in perforated aluminium runs parallel to the east side of the main body but slopes away from its overhanging roof. The two are connected by a low, glass-covered passage at ground level and a second, faced in wood, corresponding to the upper floors.
They’re the same colour, but the differences between the two parts are at the heart of the project: the main building appears solid, material and opaque while the slender extension is lightweight and reflective. DAP Studio took care of the interiors too: glossy white paint and resin flooring in the new body with wood for the stair treads and ramps; a prevalence of wood over white in the old chapel where modular bookshelves are built up from a single type of wooden container unit.