Number 9
July 2020
The Alexandria library
A building already mythologized in Antiquity, the Library of Alexandria has preserved its fame more for its destruction than for its actual incidence in the cultural history of the Mediterranean. The memory of the five hundred thousand texts preserved at the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty has passed through the centuries, reaching our days as an idea of absolute knowledge: the library that contains all human knowledge.
In 1974 a committee of the University of Alexandria proposed its reconstruction, started with an international competition in 1989. The winner was the Norwegian studio Snøhetta, which since then has been projected on the world architecture scene. The designers’ intentions tended to combine a strongly symbolic image with the most advanced technological solutions. 
The building inaugurated in October 2002 looks like an enormous sloping disk facing the sea, a sort of homage to the god Ra and the circularity of knowledge in time and space. Inside the cylindrical volume an area of 70,000 square meters can accommodate up to eight million books. Fifteen rooms for permanent exhibitions, four for temporary exhibitions, a Congress Centre and other equipment complete the structure intended for thousands of visitors.

One of the most spectacular aspects of the Library is the cladding of the outer façade in “Shulman Grey” granite.

Conceived as a stone wall of powerful expressiveness, the material becomes the background against which run the engravings created by the Egyptian artist Jorun Sanne, who wanted to draw inspiration from ancient hieroglyphics and represent all the languages of the world in 120 different styles of writing. The extension of the cladding – five hundred meters in length and a surface area of six thousand square meters – evokes the solemnity of historical Egyptian architecture, and yet it is a real challenge of modern building technology.

With its own experience, Marmi Ghirardi took care directly on site of all the construction phases and the subsequent laying of the thin granite slabs, whose dimensions of one meter by two meters to follow the curved course and inclination of the building. The minimum joints follow a controlled irregularity. This is an elegant example of that research aimed at the innovative study of cladding materials and facades as architectural filters.

The Mistero and charm of egyptian granite

The historical image of ancient Egypt is linked to the amazing granite architecture, mostly extracted in the Aswan area and transported along the course of the Nile. Not only pyramids and temples, but also colossal statues, urns, large vases and above all obelisks: nine of which have adorned Rome’s squares since the Imperial Age. Symbology has it that the very soul of Egyptian granite is that of the god Ra.
The robustness and durability, together with the colour gradations, are the characteristics that were already appreciated at the dawn of Mediterranean civilization and have never been lost. Among the building materials granite is almost the symbol of eternity, and therefore the quintessence of royal and monumental magnificence. This explains the widespread use of granite in late antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, both in religious buildings and noble palaces.

The igneous rock, formed by the slow crystallization of magma, has a typical grain visible to the naked eye in red, pink, grey or white. At a distance it is perceived as a homogeneous material that vibrates under light conditions, particularly in polished and polystyrene artefacts.

Egyptian Shulman Grey granite is one of the most valuable varieties, and thanks to its mechanical and colouring properties it is used in a wide range of architectural and ornamental solutions. The very fine grain has a light and light pigmentation, suitable for a wide range of uses: from kitchen tops to floor slabs and skirting boards, from interior furnishings to vessels and containers. Resistant to acids and frost, Shulman Grey granite can become an evocative transposer of exterior cladding, as demonstrated by the magnificent circular facade of the Alexandria Library, which was technically executed directly by Marmi Ghirardi and inaugurated in 2002. The same prestigious material was also chosen by Marmi Ghirardi for the recent construction of its company headquarters.

The Seat of natural stone
Immersed in the greenery of the Po Valley, the new Marmi Ghirardi headquarters was inaugurated in Carpenedolo (Brescia, Lombardy) in 2017.  The building was the brainchild of Arch. Lodovico Reguitti and Eng. Loris Scaroni, who shared and developed the project alongside the Ghirardi family itself. 

The new headquarters, executive and production, which covers over 600 square meters of offices and 5000 square meters of production, fully reflects the more than eighty years of history of the company with a passion for stone and fully meets the needs of a reality known and appreciated by designers all over the world. The structure is a symbol of the values that Ghirardi has conveyed since its origins: solidity, pragmatism, total quality, attention to detail and maximum customization. 

In the words of Arch. Lodovico Reguitti “we discover the general concept”.

Ideally, the executive building is an Egyptian granite monolith, broken down and intersected by clear, transparent volumes and metal framing that lighten its forms and allow for suggestive stone-steel-glass combinations.  The façade is dominated by large granite slabs with an asymmetrical matrix, alternating with ashlars, materials expressly made by hand. The simple shapes of the whole, apparently static, are made immediately dynamic by the theme; as very present in the building are the ordered asymmetry in the treatment of the surface textures.  A long cantilevered canopy in metal framing shades the glass façade of the offices on the ground floor, in alternating  glazed panels and vertical uprights. Inside we find the meeting room, completely transparent towards the double-height space of the entrance, but also towards the verdant landscape in which it is immersed, with its volume of glass protruding from the building and stretching out towards the countryside. Stone is also the protagonist inside, the warm colours of Brescian Breccia from the Ghirardi quarries in Gavardo, are the dominant theme, but discreet and elegant. The internal staircase in the entrance hall, re-proposes the theme of steel and stone, but this time the giant Breccia solids are absolutely dominant with respect to technique and steel. A long marble counter with spectacular veins in its perfect workmanship, once again demonstrating the company’s craft skills, welcomes visitors at the entrance. Beyond the staircase, a large window allows a glimpse of the “sculpture garden”, where an imposing creation by Franco Ghirardi, past president who has made marble working not only a profession, but also an artistic expression.  The solutions adopted for the production building aimed at obtaining a design quality, proposing a combination of simple volumes, marked by a façade rhythm in which the asymmetry of the ashlars and the materiality are still the dominant theme, breaking the perceptive regularity typical of industrial prefabrication. The panels, in hammered Botticino grit, alternate textures with an asymmetrical design, overall with a material yield very similar to a stone artefact, thus proposing a system of horizontal macro-tunnels. A system of grassy embankments and a row of tall trees, forming an ideal courtyard around the site, contain the overall impact on the landscape. 

The environmental impact

For the environmental impact with the new site, the company has further improved the production phases by integrating a new filter press system that allows the complete recycling of water, a process for the recovery and valorization of sludge and waste from natural stone processing, which gives new life to the by-product. Two systems have also been installed to reduce emissions into the atmosphere: an 80kw photovoltaic system for the use of solar energy, which contributes to saving about 45 tons of CO2 per year, and an innovative air conditioning system.   

Main data of the project

  • 600 sq.m. of management offices
  • 5,000 sq.m. of productive structure
  • 100 kw of photovoltaic system installed

Materials and technologies

  • Structure with pillars and prefabricated floors
  • Plasterboard cladding
  • Insulated ventilated facade in 3 cm Egyptian granite slabs, under stainless steel structure
  • Large format flooring in Breccia di Gavardo
  • Air-air heat pump heating system, controlled mechanical ventilation



Carpenedolo, Brescia

Architectural design

Arch. Lodovico Reguitti
Ing. Loris Scaron


Stone contractor

Ghirardi team


Breccia Aurora Laredo Chiaro

Breccia Marina Blu

Granito Shulman Grey

Brescia Beige

Emperador Dark

Rosso Damasco

Giallo Siena

Cremo Delicato

Nero Portoro

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