The Foro Boario is a livestock market built in the mid-60s in Padova, Italia. Its ingenious design built in prefabricated concrete modules did not find its place in the unbridled context of an expanding city.
The industrial revival of Padova
After the Second World War the city of Padova (Padua) grew rapidly, rebuilding a city that had been marked by bombing. It followed the economic essor of the Veneto, which went from being the poorest region in northern Italy to the richest in modern Italy. This impetus is reflected in a sometimes uncontrolled development and modernization, to the detriment of the urbanization of the city’s periphery. Still the industrial zone of Padua, created in 1946 to the east of the city, is today one of the largest in Europe, covering an area of 10,500,000m².
An ingenious structure in a changing city
The Foro Boario was built in the mid-60s, during this context of uncontrollable growth. Located on the north-western outskirts of the city, this concrete megastructure is a livestock market designed for a maximum of 3500 heads of cattle. The architect Giuseppe Davanzo (1927-2007) wanted to move away from the shelter solution required by the tender. He wished to avoid an inexpressive industrial building, as dozens of them were built at the time. The idea of his project was to express its market function by using a common image. He thought of large circus tents under which the buying and selling of cattle would take place, perpetuating the simple and warm trade of the village fair with the animal close to the buyer. He designed an architecture that is conducive to this climate, helped by new materials that allow for increased dimensions.
The “cattle palace” is built in prefabricated concrete following a square plan made up of 10x10m modules. The pre-stressed panels allowed a very rapid construction of the complex at a time when the industrialization of prefabrication was beginning to impose itself. The matrix on which these panels rest was designed so that, once placed, the panels slightly interlock and create a horizontal and vertical offset. This offset allows for structural continuity and coverage, but also to allow light and air to pass through. The static structure expands horizontally to cover 35,000m² of open space but also rises vertically to form successive levels. The result is a building halfway between the circus tent and the ziggurat, where the industrialization of the concrete elements contributes to the architectural quality.
Despite its qualities, the Foro Boario di corso Australia suffered from the context of the times when building was done without counting and, above all, without anticipation. Some time after its opening the market (also called the cathedral) was abandoned. The logistic and commercial intuition was missed, the Tombolo breeders snubbed it and the municipal property remained empty. Nevertheless it remains an industrial warehouse with indeniable spatial and architectural qualities that is sadly another victim of an unbridled construction made without planning. Now the concrete cathedral has been awaiting its conversion for 50 years.