We are close to the British Cemetery and a short walk from Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, in the area where the Porta a Pinti wall and gate once stood, demolished along with the ancient walls – in 1865 when Florence became the capital of Italy – to build bypass roads.
It is precisely in these years of great economic and political turmoil that the noble Zauli family, arriving in Florence from Emilia in the wake of the transfer of the capital, built an impressive home which, though built from scratch, kept alive the aristocratic traditions while inserting itself among the modernity of a city during a period of accelerated growth and development.
The large size of the building – three floors, basements, mezzanines between one floor and the other, internal garden, coach house and servants' living quarters – meant that by 1939, the building was already converted from a single-family residence into several independent residential dwellings that, during the Second World War, were consolidated into a typical condominium arrangement with the construction of a common staircase and elevator and the transformation of the attics into living quarters.
And from there, the transformation from homes into offices was but a short step. 2004 saw the beginning of a radical restoration and change of usage project that in a short time and with innovative solutions, including technological systems, turned this late nineteenth century example of Florentine architecture into a versatile space for administrative purposes. Today, some of the most prestigious law firms in the city have their headquarters here.
In this context, in which the past was reviewed to live in the present, the Vimar By-me home automation system and Netsafe – the structured wiring system – were necessary inclusions which rendered the combination of the needs of a modern professional office with the symbolic architectural heritage of the building possible.
Palazzo Alfieri, the new name of the building, is the perfect example of what "design automation" is about. Working under certain constraints imposed by the Superintendent, such as those relating to the maintenance of the original mosaic floors and limited scope for structural changes, the designers immediately turned to the Vimar By-me home automation system for solutions that also took the future of the property into consideration.
The building was therefore fully prepared to accept home automation solutions by passing paired cabling inside the electrical wiring conduits, which were then carefully covered with wooden panels which match the ivory colour of the walls and are easily removed in necessary.
The various units were then all installed with some standard automation functions – such as video door entry systems and lighting control – followed by any further functions requested by the occupants, without having to intervene with masonry work. All that was necessary was some simple and straightforward programming in the control unit to identify the additional devices and integrate them into the overall home automation system, thus obtaining maximum efficiency both in terms of the electrical system and the architecture.
The Poli Law Office, for example, is equipped with a burglar alarm system and access control activated via transponder keys, as well as temperature management either locally or as part of pre-set scenarios. With a few simple gestures on the control unit, the secretary can call up any of the different combinations of comfort corresponding to the various daily needs of the legal studio without leaving her desk. When there is a meeting, for example, the lighting in the meeting room – dominated by an impressive steel and glass table – can be set to the right intensity to cleverly highlight the paintings by the same lawyer, Carlo Poli. At the end of the day, the simple selection of the exit scenario turns off all the lights in the studio, allowing the temperature to rise or fall to the standby level, and activates the intruder alarm.
Upstairs, the professionals of the OMG Legal and Accounting Firm are particularly pleased with the choices they made for their system during the design stage. "By-me is easy to use, intuitive to operate and allows us to have everything in the offices under control" one of the lawyers explains. "We are a group of professional associates and each of us has special requirements in terms of temperature and illumination. With the Vimar By-me system, our secretary calls up – from a single monitoring station – the preset environmental conditions for each zone reserved for each of us."
To provide a comprehensive, effective and efficient system, the offices of Palazzo Alfieri are also equipped with Netsafe, the Vimar structured cabling system, with Category 6 wiring installed for the entire data transmission network.
In this highly prestigious context, Vimar was also chosen for the design of its Eikon series, installed here in the metal Classic version, coloured Metal Siena. Eikon adorns all the traditional switches and home automation controls, the emergency lighting devices, power and data sockets as well as the temperature adjustment equipment and the intruder alarm systems throughout the building.
Palazzo Alfieri thus returns to being the building desired in 1870 by Count Zauli, an example of tradition but at the same time a model of modernity and relevance in a city that – while no longer the capital of Italy – remains one of the main cultural and business capitals of the world.
Restoration project: Architect Boris Bertolini – Fiesole (FI); Geometer Maurizio Niccoli – Barberino del Mugello (FI)
System Design: P.I. Alessio Martelli – S. Piero a Ponti (FI)
System installation: Co. fi.gi. S.p.A. – Barberino del Mugello (FI)
Home automation system: By-me
Home series: Eikon