36 The Calls by Davide Marchetti Architetto


Architect Davide Marchetti of Rome proposed an office building with a punctured rammed-earth facade for a competition in Leeds, UK.

The design is an entry for the 36 The Calls architectural competition, but has not been shortlisted.

The rammed earth facade on the riverside elevation would serve as a sunscreen.

A cafe and restaurant occupy the ground floor alongside an entrance hall for the offices above.

The winner of the 36 The Calls competition is due to be announced in the next few days.

Here are some more details from Davide Marchetti Architetto:



The main idea is to create a solid, and “sculptural object” by simply carving out a complex and articulated shape out of a volume: what seems to be a banal gesture becomes rather a way to obtain a “dramatic” environment.

Rather than be massive, somehow monumental, the architecture wants to suggest movement and tension. Some parts of the building just lean out of the block overhanging the river Aire: others reach out but do not touch. The original tool comes from a simple 4 by 4 meter module: different volumes stacked in different heights and directions generate a geometrical method to have large terraces and flat roofs.

In the ground level there are separate areas for a coffee-bar/restaurant (with open air terraces facing the river), a main lobby to access office spaces on upper floors and 4 private parking lots close to the entrance. Office spaces (from 2nd to 5th floor) are designed so that they can be easily divided in 2 or more separated areas: the narrow shape of the volumes can be fitted with different layouts letting property owners to accommodate any office workplace density.

An opaque rammed earth patterned sunscreen (a true façade system) protect the south facades in all floors and creates a strong visual identity. Based on a simple hole, one of the simplest and most ancient patterns, the filigree provides shading while also creating a dynamic play of light and shade in the interior spaces. Designed also to include solar captors, the screen will provide energy for the running of the building as well as cooling for the interior spaces.

Environmental Key Design Criteria

36 The Calls is a multi-use building with each future function requiring special attention to create the right environment.

Buildings are key to achieving future sustainable development. Up to 40% of the world’s energy each year is used to heat, cool and light buildings. Energy efficiency reductions in the construction and operation of buildings offer the single most significant opportunity to reduce man’s impact on climate change. It is possible to achieve comfortable temperatures in warm climates using passive cooling measures, combining efficient building materials and modern design methods. Increased solar shading, controllable natural ventilation and high thermal mass significantly decrease overheating, with minimal extra increase in energy usage and carbon emissions.

Environmental Stability

Control of temperature and humidity and their rate of change can be of prime importance in design to reduce risks of bad comfort office spaces

Indoor Air Quality

Effective removal of particulate and gaseous contaminants, proper selection of materials to avoid off-gassing, and careful detailing of building envelope and systems are all required to achieve suitable indoor air quality.

Energy Use

Mechanical systems operate continually during working time to maintain the correct internal environment. Careful selection of systems, system components and energy recovery devices can have a significant impact on the life time operating costs of the building.


Office building can be generally built for a long life. A key in achieving this is designing building systems to be easily maintained, removed and replaced.

Lighting Technology

The right lighting is key to the success of office spaces design.

Capital Cost

Due to high structural loadings and a highly serviced interior, the cost of the engineering systems can be a high percentage of the total construction cost of this building type. A multidisciplinary design approach shows that the integration of these systems can lead to overall lower costs as well as higher quality results.

Passive Microclimate Design

The most important microclimatic feature is the complex and articulated rammed earth walls (with/without holes). The outer pierced border has a series of climatic functions: shading, protecting the buildings from unnecessary solar gain; Light filtration, filtering sunlight to provide adequate light levels in the offices and in the external areas between the buildings. The openings of the building allow appropriate light levels in working areas. The glazed openings will be protected by movable solar shading devices.

Thermal mass

The environment required for office spaces can benefit from the use of internal thermal mass. The thermal mass helps maintain stable conditions and could allow air conditioning systems to be switched off overnight. The use of the rammed earth panels ensure a good thermal mass to the building.
The main beneficial effect is to reduce peak temperatures, thereby reducing the amount of time mechanical cooling is needed in summer and reducing the amount of time heating is needed in winter.

Natural Ventilation

Cross ventilation: cross ventilation is used by opening windows in both sides of the space. Cross ventilation will be driven by prevailing wind.

Night ventilation: Night ventilation in combination with the thermal mass, permits maintenance of good conditions inside the building during the night without
mechanical system use . Because of the lower night-time temperature, the inside-outside temperature differences will be greater, enchancing both the stack driven flow rates and the cooling capacity of the outside air.

Double Façade ventilation: The ventilation in the cavity between rammed earth walls lower the external surface temperature of the internal wall. In this way, it is possible to reduce the solar heat gain. The air stratification inside the cavity removes the solar gain absorbed.

Ground-Air exchange

Another passive strategy, used to reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling, is a ground-air exchanger duct which runs around the space perimeter to pre-cool or pre-heat the external air entering to the building. The fresh air intake from the top of the building will drive through a duct under ground.

The air running under ground in a duct will exchange heat with the ground using the lower ground temperature in summer and the higher ground temperature in winter relative to the external air temperature. In this way the air intake to the Air Handling Unit is pre-cooled or pre-heated reducing the Heat Pump/Chiller energy consumption.

Posted on Sunday February 21st 2010 at 3:37 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • nobody’s learns from the mistakes of the past ? common! those architects should be studying a little bit harder the 60’s-70’s and the failures back then

  • angry catalan

    I like it. Plus the material won’t clash too much with the surrounding brick buildings (does Leeds look like that? I’m impressed.)

  • Bo

    death x death = life

  • this project makes me sad.

    I guess my biggest critique is that it is so non-specific. The holes could be interesting but since they’re everywhere, there is nothing to organize them or make the occupant or passer-by understand why they’re there. Instead, from afar, it becomes a nondescript mush and from the interior, the patterning dominates whatever the view out could be. If it’s about terraces, make terraces… don’t hide behind some opaque strategy of geometric organization.

    The close-up section is also totally wrong- you would never be able to see what’s going on during the day like that… it will be a much more dramatic effect at night.

    Also: “Based on a simple hole, one of the simplest and most ancient patterns, the filigree provides shading while also creating a dynamic play of light and shade in the interior spaces.” is totally bunk… it’s not just a simple hole. It’s a trillion holes just thrown all over the place (maybe in the hopes that by having the holes arranged in a grid will seem rational enough that they are unquestionable???) And the idea that there would be dynamic play of light is a farce, because it is a single layer of apertures being projected on a flat surface- though this could be dynamic in a certain circumstance, the fact that the holes will always be there in the same pattern, everywhere is not dynamic. It would be dynamic if there were some interaction with the surfaces that the light is projected on or if the holes were oriented in a way that altered the density of the projected light and dark as the sun passed through the day. It’s not a special moment if it’s everywhere always.

    And i think that the decision to make the street-side facade blank is a terrible decision. The buildings at the site (which look like they are built not as monuments, but as everyday, mildly industrial, somewhat vernacular buildings) maintain some connection with the street- a tribute to a place that these architects seem to have disregarded.

    They need to go back to the drawing board (MOUSE!) and be more critical about conditions & effects & honest description on this one… It’s like a really (really) bad first semester project…

  • AngerOfTheNorth

    I really can’t see that getting permission in Leeds… Not really to my taste either I’m afraid.

  • cheesegraters

  • rizoma

    Cross section quite interesting, but it looks like a prison in general…texture front/back too poor

  • john graham

    This entry did not make the short list. I think it’s beautiful. If you like it, you should send a short respectful email to the Competition. I believe that by organizing in this way, a la Amnesty International, ‘little’ people can affect the architectural world. What if every time a government was picking an architect for a project, a thousand people emailed in requests for the selection to be opened to competition. Or in the case of a city planning board not accepting a radical new design. Or in the opposite case, when city planning boards green light ugly buildings. Think of how much change we could make, just by emailing someone.

    Email Abi Hunt, at abi@citu.co.uk

  • john graham

    This project did not get into the short list. Send in an email to the judges to respectfully show your approval for this project.

    Email Abi Hunt, at abi@citu.co.uk.

    CC me at johngraham213@gmail.com

  • Mac

    Haha, sun in Leeds.

  • Claus

    The old buildings surrounding it are beautiful !

  • George

    ‘It is possible to achieve comfortable temperatures in warm climates using passive cooling measures, combining efficient building materials and modern design methods’

    Is there another city called Leeds in South Africa or somewhere he was thinking of?

    Wouldn’t exposed rammed earth in West Yorkshire just disolve into a pile of mud?

    It’s pretty, but trying to shoehorn in an idea better suited to somewhere else.

  • Erik

    Common…it doesn’t get any sadder than this!
    But it’s true: It makes the surrounding buildings a lot better!

  • @john graham: what if we would send e-mail showing our total disapproval ?
    this project screams “wrong” from every piece of drawing here on dezeen. Maybe there is a real reason that this project didn’t make the short list.

  • AngerOfTheNorth

    I’ve emailed them.

    However I’ve done so to congratulate them on picking the right shortlist and not including this building, which in my opinion is pretty poor. If you want to do sculpture, fine, but don’t try to turn it into a building.

  • hotte

    interesting to publish a competition project even before the results are published… even if it is not shortlisted you should show respect to the judges and keep your fingers quiet until the end…

  • Rob

    wouldnt really fit in Leeds.. but then again the space ship that landed in Wakefield (some sort of art gallery) really doesnt fit either.

  • sesat-case

    yEARGH!! WUDS THAT!!!!????? eww.

    (thats my 1st impression exclamation)

    sorry, but agree with the others… this don’t deserve to be shortlisted at all.
    it annihilated the context. if u want to mark the modern time with architecture in this place, do it carefully!

  • boinzer

    I don’t know about the selected ones but just have a look at the special mention design…..


    …….are we talking about architecture?

  • yuki

    brilliant! its a building worth 2 study.

  • angry catalan

    @ George: rammed earth is not too different from red brick in any aspect. If you put a tiny little bit of concrete on it it lasts for ages.

    It’s weird that this comes from an Italian architect. Italy and Barcelona have been the center of “regionalist” red brick modernism for like 50 years, so Marchetti MUST be familiar with good examples built in similar context.

    But still I think this isn’t horrible!

  • confused

    And how pray tell, do you punch holes in rammed earth?

    I thought it relied on working entirely in compression.

    Either way the porous screen effects are at odds with the material proposed.

  • Freddy_C


  • angry catalan

    confused: what’s confusing is your comment. You don’t even need to look at the section to realise the façade is not structural. I mean, what façade is structural nowadays with all those fancy IRCAM-like cavity walls? Each panel hangs from the floor slabs so it just bears its own weight (and wind loads.)

    I don’t think the holes are much of a problem since you have rather thick vertical (for compression) “pillars” of solid material. It’s kind of like this: http://playscape-design.cocolog-nifty.com/photos/escofet/murllumc.jpg

  • Serious Cat

    Get a life Jonathan. You miserable weasel.

  • Interesting project but the P+HS project is definitely the best proposal for “36 The Calls”

  • neilo

    Also, the proposal appears to cover over the adjoing property’s fascades to both sides of the proposed property.

    Particularly one of the existing properties is highly glazed with elegant sash windows… covering over of this elevation will cover over approximately 45 windows and will destroy the design of this beautiful building… why not just demolish it…?

  • phil

    so much hateful commentary on this post…

    "get a life johnathan"?