ITS assists with tech installation in historic Italian palace

Thursday 02/18/2021

"We wanted something special to mix in the Renaissance and Florence culture and still have students and faculty have the best experience," Lucia Cossari …

… states about the new student study center in Florence, Italy. The study center, FSU Florence Palazzo Bagnesi, was constructed in a fifteenth-century palace. Though a historic residence, the study center does include modern classrooms and technology.

The effort to renovate the building and install modern technology was the project of a lifetime for several ITS employees. FSU International Programs is part of the ITS Information Technology Administration Partnership Program (ITAPP), which means ITS works with them to help manage their IT resources in accordance with their goals, needs and priorities. Thanks to this unique partnership, ITS staff played an integral part in the Florence study center renovation and got to see their work reach around the world.

In 2018, Lucia Cossari, associate director of the Florida State University Florence Program, located and evaluated the palace's purchase and renovation feasibility as the new FSU Florence study center. With the trust and support of International Programs' leadership, Cossari diligently navigated the negotiations and municipal approvals to finalize the building's purchase in 2019. Cossari conceived the renovation to suit both the university's needs and restore the palace to its fifteenth-century character.

After the project plans were developed and renovations began, a team composed of International Programs ITAPP Manager Chuck Stratton, ITS Senior Director Ken Johnson and ITAPP Associate Director Dave Borschel were invited to Florence to provide IT consulting assistance.

During their three-day visit, Johnson, Stratton and Borschel toured the building and worked directly with Cossari, Florence Program Director Frank Nero and construction engineers to understand the facility's vision. The project goal was to create a study center that gives students a unique opportunity to connect with Florence and its fascinating history while also providing modern amenities and technologies to enhance the learning experience.

As you might guess, the challenges of working on an ancient building protected by local government historic preservation laws require a delicate hand and blueprint. During the initial walk-through, the team discovered that one tricky aspect of the project would be determining the classroom layout and proper placement of technology in fifteenth-century residential rooms. Another obstacle was bringing network connectivity to the building, which required Cossari and FSU to work in concert with Florence local government officials to obtain a high-speed network fiber connection.

Now, students living and learning in the palace have improved internet and Wi-Fi connection speeds. Charlie Panarella, academic and administrative supervisor with the Florence study center, played a critical role in working with local contractors to install internet services, telephones and computers in the palace.

"Our internet and Wi-Fi are much improved compared to our old study center, and our students and faculty love it." - Charlie Panarella

The completed study center includes student living space, culinary arts kitchen, multimedia lab, café, modern office space, technology-enhanced classrooms and conference rooms. The library, which serves as a hub of the building, boasts a large video wall for events juxtaposed by original historical architecture and design features.

Once a palatial residence, this building is now the official home of the FSU Florence study center. ITS appreciated the opportunity to assist International Programs in bringing a new technology experience to students and faculty studying and working abroad.

"You helped us so much." - Lucia Cossari