Renovating and creating with ACB® beams: BI Toy and Art Museum Cormano

The BI Museum of Toys and Arts was created by converting an existing, disused factory building into a museum and connecting it to a new construction of 'magical' design. Thanks to their light weight, cost efficiency, and capability to cover wide spans, ArcelorMittal's ACB® beams were used both to reinforce the existing load bearing structure and as floor beams for the new volume.

Detailed information

Architectural design: Between a game and reality

The design was created in the present, but the strength comes from the past: An old building was revived to give children something magical, a place where feelings and emotions, actions and reactions, ideas and imagination are the centre of attention, and with them the toys which are the protagonists of their lives.

Space was captured twofold - above and below. A magical object is taken out of a toy box. It has black and white stripes and around its legs a public area is coming to life. A black tail enables the visitors to come down from the toy box. Projected lights reveal the home of the treasure in the night. A carpet of toys distracts the visitors, keeping them suspended in time before the threshold, before the magical world of reality (the museum) and fiction (the theatre). Their path is accompanied by fairy tales and other books until they find the child in them again, which has never left them completely.

The main point of the design was the architects' belief that a project of transforming an industrial building into a museum should go beyond technical and functional adaptations and interior changes, as a change in the intended use of the building is involved, and as a result its urban, social, and cultural role.

The disused factory’s architectural starkness as a container, which had at the time been created to house a production environment, was maintained. Its new guise is still that of a factory, but as a factory of ideas, not goods. This involves opening it up and letting it belong to the outside, to the social and urban fabric of the town. The structure was originally designed like a large tallboy, from which new structures were ‘carved’ out as the perfect drawers and containers for toys.

The aim was to create a contrast between what was there previously, the essential renovation, and the new addition, intended as an expression of simultaneity situated between preservation and change, functionality and fantasy, in order to become a landmark in the area.

The factory building: Renovating the load bearing structure with steel

The existing building has a masonry and concrete load bearing structure. In order to adapt the structure to its new function and make it safe in structural terms, steel sections were used, in particular cellular beams. ArcelorMittal's ACB® beams were chosen for both functional and financial reasons. As a result, it was possible to adapt to the existing structure more effectively by reducing the dimensions of the beams necessary for consolidation and consequently reducing the weight acting on the foundations. Moreover, it should be mentioned that the new structure is built completely independent from the existing one.

The steel sections were used to strengthen the existing floor slab, replace the existing roof, and construct a gallery from scratch.

The attic had a span of approximately 12 m where connecting IPE 330 beams were used to connect to the existing structure and to enable the removal of a set of columns, thus obtaining ample space in the theatre.

HEA 450 beams were used to cover the roof span of 12 m and to enable the removal of another set of columns. The roof has a section comprising stud connecting beams with folded roofing sheets and concrete casting.

The use of steel in this renovation work was determined by the fact that it is easy to assemble. Another significant consideration is the added value provided by reduced implementation times and the possibility of integrating the necessary systems in the best possible way in order to make the areas functional.

The new volume and its steel structure

The new structure was designed with the same character as the existing building with which it connects. It has a completely independent steel frame with tubular columns of different sections and diameters in reinforced concrete. The beams are arranged longitudinally along a span of 31 m and were assembled on site to optimise their transportation: they were divided into three parts and assembled into a single piece before installation.

This choice arose from the need to work in unity with the existing building, connecting with it while also enabling the creation of wide areas without intermediary or bulky columns. The floor, overhanging the columns, required an ad hoc design to avoid excessive deformations: load tests were carried out which showed that displacement in the overhanging parts in the new building remained at less than a millimetre. Consequently, the load tests fully complied with legislative standards.

Project information

  • Cormano
  • Italy
  • Architect:
  • 2008-2010
  • Client:
    Comune di Cormano
  • Engineering firms:
    5+1AA, area_progetti srl (design)
    area_progetti srl, Buonomo Veglia srl (structure)
    2C Ingegneria srl (installations)
  • Contractor:
    Cooperativa Costruzioni Lavoranti Muratori
  • Photos:
    © Giuseppe Maritati