Spa facility

Place: Levico Terme (TN), Viale Vittorio Emanuele, 10

AuthorsEfrem Ferrari e Michelangelo Perghem Gelmi

Chronology: 1954 | 1964

Itinerary: Italy goes on vacation

Use: Spa center

The Lagorai mountain chain, in eastern Trentino, is rich in thermal springs, originally used by miners for the “green vitriol”. Only subsequently, starting in the second half of the nineteenth century, did they start to be used for therapeutic purposes. One of the municipalities with many spa facilities, Levico Terme, is located in Valsugana and uses the spring of Monte Fronte. This is where the facility is located: following a competition sponsored by the Region’s Department of Public Works, the building replaced the “Old Facility”, destroyed during World War II. The project was designed between 1954 and 1956 by Efrem Ferrari, a local architect trained in Venice and known in particular for worship buildings; construction stalled for three years, until the intervention of the engineer Michelangelo Perghem Gelmi, who was commissioned by the Region to update, in cooperation with the original designer, the complex’s plant and internal distribution; it was finally inaugurated in 1964.

The complex is located within the urban fabric of Levico Terme, a few hundred meters from the city center. It consists of several pavilions covering about 7,000 square meters in total. Its interior spaces are dedicated to mud bath therapy, hydromassage, inhalations, and treatments for osteoarticular diseases.

The complex’s architecture refers to a modernist tradition derived from French rationalist experiences, recalling in some traits the lessons of Le Corbusier learned at IUAV.

A series of stone-clad building blocks of variegated color, furrowed by large openings, are connected by large spaces characterized by lowered, vaulted ceilings. Their geometry, as in the Sert’s Maeght Foundation of Saint-Paul de Vence, or in Le Corbusier’s Maison Jaoul, coincide with the geometry on the façade.

One of these vaulted spaces, which emerge on the front to form a high portico, defines the complex’s entrance hall; its vast waiting room is lit by large windows, opening onto the landscape.

The main blocks’ layout probably recalls the Venetian lesson, mitigated by the rewriting of some local styles. In the material of the stone walls, characterized by a design that has always varied in the shape and color of the cladding blocks, large full-height grooves house the window openings. Here, the geometric out-scale is accentuated in the use of brick and exposed concrete. A strong reinforced concrete border holds the figure together, giving it an elementary simplicity, otherwise compromised by the façade’s complex geometry. The dark-colored zinc roofing accentuates the contrast with the elevated elements’ color and recalls an updated version of the Alpine region’s traditional roofs.

The interior spaces tend to accentuate the contrast between the geometric purity of the white plastered vaults and the retaining walls’ prosaic look. These mix references to traditional stone workmanship with other coatings and technological apparatuses: the latter are very contemporary, but, perhaps for this very reason, have not completely stood the test of time. On the ground, the polished floors return and accentuate this contrast.

Text Fabio Balducci
Photos by Marco Introini