UniCredit NavCenter
c o m i n gx i n t ox b e i n g
part one of eight - the first week
This is the documentation of the UniCredit NavCenter development process during its last 60 days of coming into being. Not only will this reveal much about the design and construction of an unique work, it will illustrate the integration between this making of a building and accomplishing the initial set of a social tool dedicated to learning, innovation and organizational transformation. The masthead is made up of images from my early November trip to Tornio, an iconic image of the Leonardo Wings, 3d images of the final design of the PODs and Armature and an on site construction photo on site. Permasteelisa was preparing the great room for placement of the wood floor prior to the assembly of the Armature Truss scheduled to begin on the 25th of November.
This narrative begins with my flight back to Tornio after two weeks in Nashville and the AI Shop with a focus on final design details, fabrication issues and scheduling. I will now be in Europe, with the exception of being home for the Christmas, New year’s break, until March finishing this project, attending DAVOS and exploring two other projects.
This is the most complex and tightly integrated NavCenter to be built to date. It is being finished under challenging schedule conditions. The story of how we got to this moment is told elsewhere [link: unicredit design process]. This latest iteration of the NavCenter concept is being realized by the most talented and sophisticated team yet assembled for this purpose. The task ahead is not just to design, fabricate and build - the task is to bring a living social organism into existence. This story will relate the final design, fabrication, building - the setting of the space - and first use of the environment. The Coming into Being process is more than completing the physical build-out as challenging as this is. It is the entire work of launching a Center and designing and delivering its first events. How this work goes will form the foundation on which the future will be gained.
The flying machine by Leonardo is an apt metaphor for this project [link: leonardo wings]. This image has been part of the design from the beginning yet it will be the last piece to be designed and executed. The armature is the final and full development of the 05 Davos RDS Armature [link: rds in europe]. The PODs are the realization of the un-built VCH Executive Office PODs and the un-built Ales Groupe work-group PODs which were finally prototyped at the VA Wade park project. Although much smaller in scale, this space will be the first to indicate the emergent of the Xanadu project [link: xanadu project] first dreamed almost 50 years ago and first put to paper in 2000. The picture of the site in the Masthead reveals the fastracking process so ably being employed by Permasteelisa. This space was brought to finish level, from raw concrete and steel within 30 days of this picture being taken.
This is the first NavCenter in a building of this substance - which is being refurbished by a world class engineering, fabrication and building firm - in a setting of historic significance. It is the first one that might make, depending how well the program is executed, a difference to a city or a region. This, besides it size and sophistication, is why it has a touch of Xanadu. How do you create a replacement city/region in a knowledge economy [link: rbtf book - cities and the wealth of nations]? For all these reasons, this is first our first “signature” project [link: page arch 80 - mt notebook]. This connection to Xanadu was clear from the beginning when the idea of a UniCredit center was first mentioned [link: page 405 - notebook #5 post 9/11 series]. So, this project is a benchmark for MG Taylor - perhaps, one of the first NavCenters capable, on a regional scale, of the mission set out a quarter of a century ago [link: mg taylor mission]. This is a gratifying prospect. The next 30 days will determine - in great measure - if this possibility can become a reality as this is never a given.
Achieving the physical environment, to its highest potential, and supporting the first event for senior managers is demanding enough in the time we have to do so. These, alone, will not be sufficient. The physical space is critical to a fully functioning NavCenter, and the opening event important, yet it takes the entire 7 Domains [link: 7 domains model] to make a sustainable place capable of facilitating systematic, emergent transformation. The build-out can become a negative or exhilarating experience; the setting up of the Center can be a slap-dash, hurried process or it can be a self-aware act of concentrating a place; the first event can be something that merely satisfies expectations and is survived or it can be a experience that will long live in the memory [link: memory] of the organization; the introduction of the facility to Torino can be pre-baked politics or it can be an uplifting regional event. These outcomes are choices. These are design issues - and, the engineering that translates an idea into reality. The total experience can be a deliberate act of creation - a work of art; an act of birth - a renascence. The outcome will be the consequence of how we use the activities, mandated by the January Meeting deadline, to do more than just accomplish the superficial shell of the assignment. It is the same effort either way. The difference is the measure of how well we use the Center, itself, to facilitate its own emergence. It takes a NavCenter to create a NavCenter.
In our history, the making of the Anticipatory Management Center (our first in 1980), The Acacia PDPM Center (1983), The Gossic Leadership Center (1990), the Capital Holding Management Center (1992), the three knOwhere Stores (Hilton Head - 1996, Cambridge and Palo Alto - 1997), the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health (2002) and Masters Collaboration Studio (2004) were the best integrated experiences and satisfying celebrations. These are the benchmarks we can - and must - surpass in order to live up to the promise of this time and this place.

Each of these projects involved an intimate hands on experience from design through construction and first use.

Each one was knee deep in sawdust 48 hours before opening. The final construction, WorkFurniture installation and design for the first event was going on in the space simultaneously - these environments were created by the active involvement by the entire ValueWeb with everyone, interested in and helping each other get ready. There was one unifying goal: to create a magic place for knowledge work and transformation.

Despite the press of a deadline, there was neither panic nor compromise. The deadline brought focus - not frustration. Each of the 7 Domains of a healthy Center were equally addressed.

This experience became an annealing agent. It fused purpose, future aspirations and the work of the present. The physical nature of the work grounded the experience and made the idea of the enterprise real.

As the final construction is completed, the Armature and WorkFurniture set, it is time to dress the space: plants, art objects, tools, knowledge-objects, stimulating puzzles, books, toys, supplies and media equipment

This is not a linear process. As knowledge workers experiment with how the space can be used, this suggests new modules to focus participant learning and collaborative work. Ideas for the event to come, in turn suggest adjustments to the environment.

Place is practiced into being.

Creative work is best accomplished when it is an act of celebration.

Over a quarter of a century has refined this process of becoming. It does not require management - it is too complex for this approach. It requires free order, a common vision and process facilitation. The environment is brought into being by the same method which will be used in the conduct of its work. For the UniCredit NavCenter, we will be setting up a mini-NavCenter, on site, to facilitate this process. This facility will be open for business on the 19th of December.
How this birthing is done has a profound effect on the future of the NavCenter and the efficacy of its work. These next 60 days are the “initial set.” Many, seeing a NavCenter as a traditional training environment with bells and whistles, will be skeptical just reading this without the actual experience of doing it. Hopefully, this act of creation will capture their imagination. This is but a small, yet significant, step in the forging of a new European bank which requires the forging of a new culture from the many.
...Sunday - 26/Nov/ 06
1 month and 24 days to Opening
I arrived in Milan at 0830 and proceeded to Torino. The work this weekend is to move the existing and newly completed new Armature pieces into the space, check the layout, and to set up the process for erecting the Armature.

The glass stairway by the elevators is almost finished and ready to get its glass treads. The stairs go up and project through the roof of the NavCenter portion of the project to the special education rooms on the floors above Access to all of these areas will be predominately through the front of the navCenter. This sets some interesting ENTRY conditions [link: navcenter entry]. The glass elevators and baloneys will be dominate features of the project and will both emphasize and bring scale to the vertical space of the great room. They provide an interesting view down to the main floor - present, yet detached.

The glass rail allows an unobstructed view out into the space. This will look down on the columns, beams and truss, of the Armature, directly into the suspension system (and large projection screen #10), and up to the existing concrete and glass dome.

This picture, taken at 15:30 on November 26th, of the historic dome (one of the first of its type built), shows the quality of light it provides.

The view down to the Lolly Pop Columns gives a sense of their scale in the environment. They top off just below the balcony bottom and the beams, that rest on them, rise toward the center and of the Armature Truss. The Armature, PODs and WorkFurniture make up the predominate wood elements of the space along with the floor. They are surrounded by concrete, steel, glass, tile and plaster. This combination of materials will “pull” the energy into the collaborative center of the environment.

The new HVAC system will be shrouded by curved sheet rock elements. this work is now about 50% done and will be complete this week.

The wood floor is down and covered. It will be sanded and finished just before Christmas allowing a week for the finish to cure and outgas. The HVAC work is being wrapped with sheet rock and the columns painted. The waterproofing for placement of earth in the Garden Area will take place this coming week. The main elements of the Armature and Truss are on site. They have suffered some from two setups, breakdowns and shipping. After erection, many of these pieces will have to have their finish restored. In about a week from now, the site will begin to take on the aspect of a project in the finish stages.
On site, we discussed the erection process for the Armature. It will take a day or two to get the scaffolding in place and clear the area for this process. It will take a little over a week to get the Armature, up to the top of the Trusses, in place. Then electrical and multimedia wiring can begin. The layout confirms that the Armature will fit within the column boundaries about as the drawings indicated. There seems to be a few centimeters more clearance and this can easily be accommodated. It will be necessary to cover the Armature pieces to protect them from the final sheet rock and paint process. It would have been better to wait a few days to move the Armature pieces in, however, the bulk of the materials had to be moved over the weekend so as not to disrupt on site parking and other shipping.
In all, things appear in good order. We should not have any difficulty in completing the total installation on schedule as long as ship and air shipments make it here as scheduled - a disruption with transportation or customs is our only serious risk. There are numerous small details, in regards the integration of many different systems, yet to worked out and coordination is always key at this stage of a project of this complexity and time constraints. Yet, all the signs are good.
...Monday - 27/Nov/ 06
1 month and 23 days to Opening
Every time I get to spend time on a project coming to closure I remember how much I enjoy this aspect of the process. All the months of work, with all of the inevitable conflicts that have to be resolved, fade away as the joy of seeing an idea leap from computer and paper to become a living reality ready to begin the work for which it was designed. The sounds and smells and the pure energy of a project with multiple trade disciplines all working around one another is the essence of the human impulse to create. It is in this real time environment where the final development of details are worked out. The design does not stop in the Studio. The real thing to be built emerges out of the interactions on site. That the prior “paper” work be properly done is critical for this final touch. To build just what was drawn, however, is to short change the quality of the result.
Someday, I will be able to do a project where every major player is onsite from the conception through execution - then the level of collaboration, problem solving, quality of design, and waste and time reduction will be extraordinary.

The work on the multimedia system is now in high gear. The NavCenter will have a complete media control and production studio capable of sending, receiving and displaying multiple signals to all places in the center. Besides walking into a physical place, users of the Center will be surrounded by a media space of content and images. Over 8 different images at a time can be sent to any of 30 display screens. Multiple cameras will record sounds and images to be sent to the media room to be displayed, edited, broadcast and made part of documents and media works. These products can be sent to other locations in a variety of forms. This is not just for show - this system is specifically designed to facilitate interaction, group dialog and understanding as well as collaboration.

The glass is being set on the elevator balcony creating a transparent sitting area overlooking the great room.

As the shroud around the HVAC is completed, wiring and mounts for speakers and projectors are being installed. The great room is a very bright acoustic space that can be tuned for great effect - this will take some time.

The wrapping of the duct work moved to the last side over by the Center Master POD and the floor was swept creating a clean space for the Armature pieces to be cleaned and stacked by type. Mike Bryne, from the AI Shop arrived about noon and we all walked through the Armature erection process with the Forcellini shop people and Paola Serra. Giorgio Maria Rigotti, the Architect of record who has responsibility for all safety issues, confirmed the need for a scaffold and specified how it should be erected. Permasteelisa started placing the glass on the floor of the elevator balconies.
I met with Massimo Maffei and his media team to discuss an number of integration issue including the placement and size of projection screens and the material to be be used for them.
...Tuesday - 28/Nov/ 06
1 month and 22 days to Opening
Reviewed erection details and schedule with Paola, Mike and Forcellini. Materials are being prepared so that work on the Truss can begin as soon as the scaffolding is set.

View from the Media Room down into the main space. The sheet rock covering of the HVAC is being finished and the scaffolding for setting the Armature is beginning to go up.The red at the left of the photo is the waterproofing membrane being set in the Garden Area.

The Media Room is on a balcony above the KnowledgeWorkers Work Room. Racks are being set for the media equipment and workstations.

The glass rails and floor at the elevator balcony are nearly complete. This balcony looks out directly into the great room and through the Armature to the work space below. Suspended from the Armature, will be a 2 by 3 meter screen for viewing from this balcony.

I selected colors for the laminates for the media workstations. The KnowledgeWorker Work Room is mostly complete lacking only lights and wiring. I asked Massimo to get us wireless access to the Internet as soon as possible.
...Wednesday - 29/Nov/ 06
1 month and 21 days to Opening
Payola, Mike, Tortellini and I reviewed all projects for Tortellini’s shop to be done between now and the 10th of January when he has to be predominately on to other projects. This includes erecting the Armature up to the top of the Truss; helping the Swiss crew put on the suspension system; building 12 Media Trees per the revised drawing being finished this week; add any wiring chases required; move the WorkFurniture from Lesmo after the 15th of this month; build frames and mounting brackets for the media equipment: speakers, screens, microphones, etc.
The set up of the Scaffolding began today scheduled to be finished this evening.
Met with the sprinkler engineer and supplier. He proposed a lower pressure system with larger piping. I told him that this was not an acceptable solution. This approach will use up too much of the wiring chase space and also be out of scale and unsightly on the Armature.
Anna was ill today and so our meeting to discuss the program for the opening was put off until next Tuesday.
This was a tiring day - one of those times when you think about doing something less stressful like deep sea diving or working the high wire in a circus.
...Thursday - 30/Nov/ 06
1 month and 20 days to Opening
Lowered the scaffold today. This was a setback of at lease a half a day, the consequence of a simple miscommunication. We wanted the scaffold to be a little higher than the Armature will ultimately sit so that so that the supports can be set up, marked and removed during the bolting process. Unfortunately a little bit turned into three-little-bits in the translation from English to Italian despite much arm waving. Everyone took it with good heart and the correction was soon made.

The conflict - a matter of a few inches - between the top of the Armature Truss and the shroud around the HVAC. By lowering the Truss closer to its final height, this is avoided. Every dimension was checked except this one reminding all of the old saying “measure twice, cut once.”

Setbacks like this are always disappointing as they break the rhythm of the work which is so important for productivity. Once a pace has been established the work progresses rapidly. Small errors cost more than a surface view reveals - too many errors and the spirit, so necessary for good work, is adversely affected. We got through this one with most of our tail feathers still intact but a repeat will not be so easy to overcome.

Permasteelisa finished the tile flooring on the ramps at both entries. Met with the sprinkler people; the new plan is to go high pressure and hang the system at the same level as the upper adjunct lighting. I rather that nothing be up there at all but this is a better solution than trying to run all of the piping through the Armature and PODs. It look like this issue is finally resolved. Walter De Faveri, the permasteelisa project manager is concerned that both the lighting and sprinkler lines, which have to be hung on wires to accomplish the span under the dome, will deflect too much. Apparently, some diagonal cross bracing will be employed.
After consultation with Walter and Dick Lowndes (our engineer), by phone, I determined the final anchor bolt sizing and depth of penetration into the slab. Paola ordered steel plates (there were none for the Truss bases as there were for the Lolly Pop columns), blots, washers and nuts from Permasteelisa for Monday delivery. Not having existing steel plate in the Truss bases afforded us the opportunity to go to a four bolt pattern. We can get only about 5cc into the structural concrete so the redundant bolting pattern provides a good safety factor. Resolving the bolting specifications answers the remaining questions associated with this phase of the Armature work. It will take a couple of days to set all the bolts and get the trusses completely attached - then, the scaffolding can come down and the Lolly Columns and beams placed.
...Friday - 01/Dec/ 06
1 month and 19 days to Opening
It has been a week since I landed, last Sunday morning, in Milano to traveled to Turino. We are now making steady progress. It has taken this time to line up materials, arrive at understanding and consensus of the work to be done, and to assemble the necessary tools. While this may seem lengthy, it has to be understood that the transition from the use of the Armature as a portable system to a permanent installation is a difficult process. the Armature was not designed to be bolted down to concrete so the feet - being already built - are not designed for a traditional anchoring process. The work has to be done with great care and precision. This is truly a field erection of a house size prefabricated structure. Besides the work on the Armature, which we were behind the preparation curve from the beginning due to recent programmatic changes and unexpected code requirements, a great deal of my time was spent this week on up coming work so that this start up process will not be repeated as the electrical, fire suppression system and multimedia teams start their work in the Armature, PODs and WorkFurniture. With a couple of more days of diligent effort, our work and the on-going construction will be in good flow, together. This up front investment will pay off and the time “lost,” in getting set up correctly, will be easily regained in overall effectiveness. It cannot be said too often, how good and collaborative the Permasteelisa team is. They are - by a wide margin - the best contracting firm we have ever worked with. Besides this being the result of their business philosophy, I attribute this level of collaboration and competency to the fact that they do design, engineering, fabrication and contracting both as a sub and as a principle and they have global experience on world class signature projects of immense scale. They know what it takes for a project of this complexity to proceed properly.

At the end of the day, Friday, the Armature Truss was over 50% assembled. There is an old saying “be careful what you ask for.” I asked for a scaffold and I got far more than I had in mind. It is, however, the right way to do things - even if a rare happening - and provides a stable, level, safe working platform.

A view of the Truss from the balcony reveals how the scale of the Armature fits within the building. With the suspension system, both horizontal and vertical scale will be requisite.

The ends of the Trusses are cantilevered from the scaffolding to allow the insertion of the supporting truss-column components. The Armature is erected from the top down. When the scaffolding is lowered, the weight will be distributed evenly reducing unnecessary stress to system.

The final work of the day was to review shipping schedules and invoices with Paola. Doing just-in-time component manufacturing across an ocean, with so tight a schedule, does test the nerves more than a little. Keeping the flow of goods moving East and cash moving West - all in balance - is a critical success factor that gets little credit or attention unless something goes wrong.
...Saturday - 02/Dec/ 06
1 month and 18 days to Opening
The electrical rough, furring and glass floor section was started on the second balcony. It appears this will be completed by Monday or Tuesday. When we can get on on this balcony we will be able to see for the first time how the projection screens on this side of the building will “read.”
The Truss legs in position with the bases so that the bolt holes can be located. The legs are placed and scribed, then removed then the holes drilled.
On Monday, the bolts will be set in epoxy, the steel plate set and leveled and the legs bolted in place. After the 16 steel plates - with four bolts each - connect the Armature to the floor, the scaffolding can be removed so that the beams and airfoils of the Armature can be placed. It all goes together like a big erector set. The Armature [link: armature] defines the “room within the room,” carries wiring for lighting and media technology and mounts display screens. It also modifies the acoustics of the space. The Armature creates an intimate space bringing human scale to a great room and a warm natural texture to balance the concrete, marble, steel and glass of existing building with its modification. There are essentially three structures at play here: the traditional building, the modern additions rendered in steel and glass and the building-scale wood, steel and plastic assembly of the Armature PODs and Wings. These three “dialog” with one another and create a sensibility and spatial composition not bound by any of their individual geometries. The result it both restful and exciting and “emerges” in variation after variation as you move through the environment. These qualities are those we want the users of the NavCenter to exhibit in their work.
This week ended well enough yet there are some signs of possible storms ahead. I had told Paola that I did not think we needed to start this week, that the project would not be ready and it was not necessary to start this early to meet the schedule. She insisted on the date. It turns out we were both correct in our assessment. Only a couple of days of real work was accomplished and it did take this amount of time to really begin. In many ways my having another week in Nashville on design and production issues and Mike having another week in the shop would have been far more productive. However, this startup process might well have been required no matter when we started the work and, if so, the second week of this countdown will have been sacrificed to great detriment of the project.
I am reminded, each time we get to this point of a project what an intensely social process building actually is. It is not, as many think a simple command and control environment based on perfect and immutable plans. The design is worked out, one step at a time, every day. The continuous recreation [link: recreation model] of the idea is essential if the idea is to be realized.
GoT0: part two of eight - the second week
Return to INDEX
GoTo: UniCredit Handwritten Notebook
GoTo: Leonardo Wings
GoTo: Unicredit Updates

Matt Taylor
Nashville to Tornio
November 25, 2006


SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted: November 25, 2006

revised: December 3, 2006
• 20061125.565610.mt • 20061127.129970.mt •
• 20061202.876200.mt • 20061203.988909.mt •

(note: this document is about 95% finished)

Copyright© Matt Taylor 2006
Leonado Images copyright© Leonardo3 2006

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