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PalaCinema Locarno - Locarno, Switzerland

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In the aftermath of the 2007 global financial crisis and rampant global warming –and perhaps the demise of “starchitecture” as a default procedure to build urban identity–, the Palazzo del Cinema Locarno project is guided by principles of economy, trying to capitalise in the existing structure and the public affection for the Palazzo Scolastico –which used to host the local schools and now hosts a variety of NGOs and community associations, to provide an architectural identity for the new cinema complex in Piazza Remo Rossi in Locarno, in the shores of Maggiore Lake.


At a time when energy resources are dwindling and climate change has become a crucial problem for our cities, it would have been irresponsible to simply discard the existing building in order to build an entirely new one, with the corresponding expenditure of vital resources. Urban Recycling is a more adequate strategy for this intervention. Three levels of action to reduce the emissions have been considered: demand reduction, improved energy efficiency of systems and improved building management. A solar plant of 135.7 kWp and an estimated annual production of about 130,000 kWh was installed on the roof.




The building has been transformed into a landmark of the city with a change in use considerable. In any case, there was the desire to maintain the substance of the original building. Among all the proposals in the competition announcement, the design proposal was chosen that kept the existing building avoiding its demolition, preserving the original parts of the building as much as possible conforming to the new intended use and making the new and the existing coexist. The objective of the intervention also concerns for the most part the environmental sustainability of the building because by extending the life of the old structure, an important reduction in the building's environmental costs has been achieved. In recovering the old structure of the Palazzo Scolastico, the architects aimed to substantially reduce the energy consumption required by the project, limiting carbon dioxide emissions caused by construction, demolition and transport activities to a minimum.




External walls:

The original structure has been largely maintained as far as the outer ring of the building is concerned, while the central part has been demolished to make room for the cinemas. The new core has been inserted inside the old building to reinforce the external walls with a reinforced concrete structure. The building has been internally insulated with 18 cm on the new structure and new building. The minimum thickness necessary to reach the Minergie standard were selected both in the new part as in the old part, with the purpose to lose as little internal space as possible. This way the original façade remains exposed.



The windows have been replaced by new ones that are not reproductions of the originals and a golden sheet has also been added to the intrados. The windows of the building were not original and were replaced in different periods. It was considered correct to avoid historical falsehoods by imitating period windows, also because they are difficult to reconstruct and in contrast with energy regulations.

  • New window U-value Glass [W/m2K]: 0,6
  • New window U-value Frame [W/m2K]: 1,3


HVAC - Heating:

100% indirect Ground Water Heat Pump (GWHP) for heating/cooling and domestic hot water in combination with the solar PV plant in the roof of the building. The production of thermal energy is guaranteed by a water-water heat pump with a primary medium of groundwater with 450 kW of thermal power capacity, while the refrigerating energy necessary for the air conditioning, of about 1'050 kW cooling power capacity, is ensured by a pumping station of water from the lake. In consideration of the fact that the lake water has a significant temperature difference depending on the seasonal trend and the depth of collection, in order to obtain an enough constant temperature and to allow an integral free-cooling function (10ºC at the point of use and 7ºC at the sampling point) it was necessary to go to a depth of 45 m due to the considerable length of the pipeline (approx. 1'000 ml.)


Renewable energy systems: 

A photovoltaic system has been installed on the roof. With a nominal power of 135.7 kWp, the production is about 130'000 kWh/y. The total cost is 178'000 CHF. The intention is to guarantee the best possible integration from an aesthetic and architectural point of view. For this reason, the system has been inserted on the roof. Initially the intent was to install an integrated PV system, but after a cost comparison it was decided to continue with a standard black/blue monocrystalline cell system. The inverter is installed in the technical room on the top floor.


Read more about this case here.

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