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Eloquent Steps In Florence

The architecture studio Deferrari+Modesti, already the author of various original experimentations in material and constructive solutions, designed and gave an identity to the interiors of the Brac bookstore of Florence.

The Brac bookstore can be found on Via dei Vagellai number 18, a few steps away from the Uffizi Gallery. The multifunctional space of 75 square meters offers a reinterpretation of the idea of the classical café littéraire, and is composed of a contemporary art bookstore, a café, and a kitchen where vegetarian and vegan dishes are prepared. The rich cultural programming offered in the last years has accompanied a variety of encounters and relations. It is in this context that Javier Deferrari’s and Lavinia Modesti’s interventions are born. First, with a temporary installation (created alongside architects Valentina Muscedra and Sergio Leone), a more integral solution to the acoustic problem, and finally, the restyling that brings the place to its current configuration.


The capability of building relations is part of the success of the surprising space, which offers the Florentine public a lively interaction with the contemporary. At the heart of the intervention by Deferrari+Modesti is the 65-square-meter courtyard which visibly links the two main rooms: a surprising space characterized by its verticality, color, flexibility, conceived with the objective of limiting the transmission of noise to the surrounding residences. More than 5,000 textile strips, of nine different colors, five centimeters wide and between 75 to 175 centimeters long, hang from above, and involve the visitor in an emotional space. The strips are suspended from a light and modular structure made from steel cables permanently fixed in the courtyard walls at a height that does not surpass the ceiling of the bookstore. This allows a variety of configurations through time and through the different seasons, allowing itself to adapt to transformations as well as the different needs of the cafe-bookstore. Above this modular system, Deferrari+Modesti added a layer that guarantees an adequate level of acoustic absorption during the night. It devised a system of curtains, made with a sound-absorbing fabric that uses the same steel cables as guides and which, opened by means of a precise pull system, proceeds to cover all the surface of the courtyard, thus limiting the transmission of sound energy towards the surrounding apartments. The granulated pavement made of gray Bardiglio marble welcomes a path marked by sandstone (pietra forte) slabs that recall the texture of the bamboo flooring used in the interior.


In the first room, wooden paneling surrounds part of the book collection and re-equilibrates the proportions of the space. In the second room, more informal sofa seating welcomes book presentations, readings, and photography exhibitions. In the renewed form, the spaces, although not expansive, have been rendered even more functional and comfortable through some solutions such as the transformation of the entrance, now a showcase space. Furthermore, the existing bookshelves have been replaced so as to give the book collection more visibility. Durmast wood was used for the new shelves as well as for the table tops, which rest on old iron bases of garden tables. The wood serves as a counterpoint to the monochromatic creme white of the walls. The old ceramic tile floor of the two rooms has been substituted with a bamboo parquet flooring, which regulates the space.

“With our project, we wanted to renew the atmosphere without distorting it and leaving the stratigraphy of previous interventions visible. The selection of the contemporary art books is very accurate and deserved, in our opinion, more visibility. The courtyard, the true heart of this place, is where we were able to express our creativity to the fulles,” said the architects. 

The shop window that constantly changes by presenting the latest book and photography acquisitions is characterized by a series of interchangeable mobile elements, which the owner Melisa (who has a true passion for books and an interest in all things contemporary in all of their expressive forms, such as art, theater, dance, cinema, and photography) can easily use and rearrange. In the kitchen, the co-owner Sacha, who is a creative chef specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, gives free expression to his culinary talents.


photographs by ANNA POSITANO