q-bic | Marco e Luca Baldini, the B9 designers

The B9 designers

Marco and Luca Baldini are the founders of q-bic, the studio that was responsible for the design of the spaces at B9.

q-bic was born from the union of their professionalism, Marco is a designer and Luca is an architect. Thanks to this combination they are able to take projects off in many different directions, in a way that is innovative and natural. Their experience takes in temporary installations, theatrical sets, and ranges from architecture to design.

A willingness to experiment and break new ground has led to them working in various different areas, above all in the catering sector, where they have received notable acknowledgements, thanks to their prerogative of bringing about renewal through the use of unconventional design. In Florence they have completed works that have shaken up the aesthetics of interior design in the city. Through their design work they are able to regenerate places that have fallen into decline whilst still retaining their history, enhancing the fascination that is given to them through time and making the fullest use of technology and innovation as a means of inserting new functions: the objective is always one of making the space comfortable and welcoming for those that experience it.

Amongst the projects that have given them greater visibility are La Ménagerè and Ditta Artigianale, both food establishments in the centre of Florence. One of the most recent newly opened premises, which the designers consider as representative of their work, is Moebius, a cocktail bar in the Milan area created from an industrial warehouse.

Luca and Marco speak about their work and the regeneration of the Manifattura

The Manifattura Tabacchi project

“We are in love with Manifattura Tabacchi: its large dimensions, its architecture and the signs of aging that characterise it and give it a fascination typical of post-industrial spaces. When they called to ask about us participating in its renovation it was a really lovely surprise.”

Marco Baldini.

Manifattura Tabacchi features rationalist architecture with defined forms, which bear testament to the rigorous design that was typical of that time. Pier Luigi Nervi worked on the project, one of the construction ‘gurus’ of that era.

The 16 buildings of the ex-industrial complex are characterised by cement structures with a very particular scan of beams and pillars, derived from the many experimental possibilities typical of this construction technique. For Florence it represents a great exception from the general urban fabric, which does not have many other production or industrial buildings, unlike other cities that feature many such buildings.

One of the objective principals of the regeneration of the Manifattura is to breathe life back into a place which has always been part of the city, but which few people have seen inside. Specifically for this reason, the idea is to bring new functions to the interiors of the structure, to make it a city within the city, able to attract, integrate, and welcome many different needs and requirements. All this must take place through the story of what was yesterday’s Manifattura Tabacchi, with its industrial structures, large spaces and the effects of time. This means acting in a way that maintains the unique aspects of the place and its past, but bringing to it all that is required for people to live their daily lives there in comfort.

The elements that characterise B9

For the B9 project we had to think about how to bring new contents, new functions, to the interior of an industrial building which had a purely productive nature, without altering its appearance, characterized by the charm that its abandonment has given it.

For example, the large windows that separate the public spaces from the work spaces of the Makers are made from large windows that were recovered from the renovation of the B6 building, where the new Polimoda site will be located.

Everything inside the space represents a little piece of the history of the Manifattura, even the benches of the bistro were reconstructed reproducing the old benches of the canteen that were found in one of the buildings.

“Another important element is the Air Factory, which is not one of our projects from a creative and experimental perspective, for our part we just chose its interior positioning. However, this element tells us a lot about what the future Manifattura Tabacchi will be like, a place that is very aware of sustainability, of the quality of the life that we live and the air that we breathe, always in a way which is natural and without grand artifice. It’s really a manifestation of the Manifattura of tomorrow, and so we’re happy that it’s so visible, right in the centre of the B9 project.”

Marco Baldini

The external steps, which form a link between the interior and the exterior and bridges the difference in height between the two spaces, perfectly represents the concept of transformation, of the change that this regeneration has brought to B9. A place which once served as a loading area, a place that was not lived in and that was an obstacle to the usability of the spaces, has been transformed, not only is it a passageway that links the Cortile della Ciminiera with B9, it’s also a point of aggregation where people can sit, eat, chat, and enjoy whatever events are on.

B9 inaugurazione di Bulli & Balene Manifattura Tabacchi

One of the greatest difficulties was keeping in mind that the preparation of B9 is only temporary, in fact, within two years of its opening, the contents of B9 will be redistributed across another three much bigger buildings. B9 is a prototype, it’s a manifestation of what the Manifattura will be. It also represents the willingness of the management to open this place up to the public as soon as possible, to make it permeable to the community that surrounds it and enrich it with the presence of people, without having to wait years to complete the whole project first.

B9 B there

B9 is a place of warmth, almost as much domestic as it is stupefying. It’s able to welcome all types of people, from the twenty-year-old to a worker who has just finished their shift, from Polimoda students to tourists. It transforms according to the time of day in order to meet the needs of the people who go there: from the cafeteria to the open-air cinema, it’s a space for events and a place for workshops and shows.

Thanks to its dimensions, Manifattura Tabacchi will host all of the functions that are present in a city: schools, offices, residences, places dedicated to handicrafts and art, hotels. It will be a condensed version of the life and variety that you find in a city. There are other similar places in the world, like the LX Factory in Lisbon or Il Matadero in Madrid, but these other places tend to follow a more precise direction and don’t have the width of scope the Manifattura project has.”

Marco Baldini

“Noi siamo in generale sempre tanto più soddisfatti dei nostri lavori quanto più i nostri lavori fanno star bene le persone. Quando si unisce la contentezza di chi ha fatto l’operazione in termini imprenditoriali a quella di chi frequenta il luogo allora riteniamo di aver fatto un buon lavoro.

“In general, the greatest satisfaction we get from our work is when it makes people feel good. When the people who carried out the operation at a business level and the people who go to the place are both happy, then we know we’ve done a good job. When a place is lived in and alive it is difficult to bring all this back to a single detail of the project. In our projects there are hardly any striking signs that individually leave their mark, but they are made up of many different pieces that all together create harmony without being intrusive, adding up to achieve an overall result.”

Luca Baldini

The people that come to B9 are impressed by the architecture and the interior design, and they are fascinated by the variety they find there: contemporary art, food, culture, entertainment, handicrafts, innovation and sustainability.

Ongoing new projects

For Manifattura we’re also looking at the design and development of the external spaces for the regeneration project. Together with landscaper Antonio Perazzi, we are outlining what will be the connecting axes, the courtyards, the squares and the open spaces between the various buildings, the areas which will link all the activities and functions contained in the ex-industrial complex. It’s a type of design on a completely different scale compared with the B9 project, it’s a really interesting new challenge.

Alongside this, we have started developing the design for the buildings that will one day house the contents that are currently in B9: commercial spaces, co-working areas, spaces for art, artisan ateliers, workshops, bars, restaurants and event spaces.