the generic name for the various tools used in domestic life.
Eg. in the kitchen: some utensils more necessary in the kitchen are pots, pans and cutlery.
In artisan shops, laboratories or workshops, any simple tool suitable for working with metals, wood or stone; for example. the hammer, the chisel, the pincers, the pliers, the scissors, the saw, the file, the drill, the awl, etc.
- Vocabulary Treccani
The project is designed in an organic way, taking several aspects into account from the outset, starting with the distribution of spaces, as a tool that can simplify and facilitate the activities of domestic life. The rooms are organized through an inhabited envelope made up of a set of custom-integrated fixed furniture elements.
The walls, doors and elements of mobile furniture are removed from the construction of space and of domestic life, and only ‘structures as devices’ remain, which organize the available space with elements that can change function during the day. The house is no longer conceived as an empty envelope to be filled or decorated with objects that affirm a status, but as an ad hoc tool capable of simplifying and making ordinary and extraordinary actions and gestures more comfortable, at different times of the day, on demand.
The acceptable contemporary urban apartment usually consists of many environments: an entrance with supporting furniture; a kitchen without compromise; a snack area (which we realised functions better as an island); a dining area which has the possibility to welcome a good number of guests on different occasions; a living and relaxation area; a sleeping area in the form of an alcove, or bedroom; a wardrobe or closet; a study area for working remotely; a bathroom with a full wall shower a required services. In a micro apartment, the main challenge is to incorporate all of these elements into a very confined space.
Comfort is more
Perceptions inside the home can be changed according to the perspective of the user, allowing the apartment to be a reflection of the feelings and the mood of the person. It is important to understand how the spaces in the house have the ability to change during different times of the day and how those changes, in relationship with the natural light entering the apartment, can allow the user to adapt those spaces for different uses. The adaptability of the spaces should allow the inhabitant to achieve both private and semi-private spaces with minimal effort. This also allows the person to provide a variety of experiences within a very confined space, a freedom which would otherwise be lost if this element of flexibility was not considered.
The sensitive material choices and colour palette are vital to achieving a sense of calm in a space which can be transformed into a private sanctuary within the busy and vibrant city centre. For us it is important to emphasize that furniture or furnished elements can provide multiple functions: they define space limits and fixed scenes, but are also tool boxes and functional elements, which act as storage for items which are fundamental to contemporary urban living.
To ensure the presence of the different environments, it is necessary to work with the concept of time.
“Comfort depends ninety-eight percent on common sense and two percent on aesthetics”
- Terence Conran
Only a few uses can take place at the same time or within a close proximity to another. Most household activities are regularly carried out in fairly orderly succession. The use of the space changes following the movement of the body within it (like a glove), and not vice versa. ‘Home as a tool’ also means that the body and its life (and requirements) are at the centre of the construction of the space, with all the limits and weaknesses it brings with it.
The aspiration of comfort remains. Those who live in a house need a minimum living space, naturally well lit, a double bed, a full kitchen, a closet at the entrance for wet umbrellas, etc.
When we speak about Micro Apartments, we know that this can work only if the space is comfortable. To achieve that, it is necessary to think in a different way from the early stages of the project. A way that sees the whole picture all together, and synthesizes it.
Today, we think that the comfort of a well designed house - beautiful, flexible and functional at the same time and one that can actually improve the quality of the moments spent in it - is the real luxury experience people want, more than a place that reflects an economic status.
Produced by: Newmac
Creator: Colin Chee
Producer: Lindsay Barnard
Director/Camera operator: Alessandro Carpentiero
Editor: Colin Chee
Interview: Philip Kolevsohn
First b/w Illustration: Built-in wall storage unit with built-in bed and desk - Charles and Ray Eames, 1961
NCSU Design Library Image Collection
Second coloured illustration: from the book "Easier life" Wright
Video Link: NEVER TOO SMALL Ep47 Project link: Link
“Someone could indicate other destinations, other routes, cancel a route already taken or tell us that "all the roads here are mine", but we know that the world of wonders is still possible, in the choices we allow ourselves to make, in not being afraid to trust tastes and preferences, in personalisation, and in thinking that perhaps a home is not forever, but it is rather the memory of the home we hold that is forever.”
Sitting snug within the design district of NoLo in the north-east of Milan, Nolita is a beautifully cosy and well-lit home for travellers.
Waking up in an apartment building from the 20s has never felt quite like this. Snippets of the apartment’s history greet you around every turn, with ornate ceiling details and beautiful concrete floor tiles flowing from room to room. Sunlight beams through the apartment in the early hours of the morning, as the crisp Milan air flows through the central corridor. The birds singing from the treetops in the lush courtyard beside the kitchen detach you from the hustle and bustle of the city, virtually transporting you to the flowing greens which surround the city’s urban fringes.
With obvious reference to the book “Lolita” by novelist Vladimir Nabokov, the apartment takes on the character of being precociously seductive, much like the story’s second lead character Dolores Haze, also referred to as Lolita.
The attention to detail in this big yet simple apartment is evident from the first moment. A small light greets you with a warm embrace, turning on automatically as you enter. From this point, the central corridor, already filled with natural light beaming from the rooms along its full length, is now full of light.
When making your way along the central spine of the home, hints of colour catch your peripheral attention as you go. Each room, still with its original flooring, is painted with its own colour, inspired by the apartment’s historic narrative lying underfoot.
The rooms leading off the corridor are dressed with a double door with an ornate architrave to frame it. The walls of each room are divided; the lower portion painted in a colour which seems to flow upwards from the existing floor tiles, while the upper part of the walls and ceiling are painted white, allowing the natural light to bounce around the room. This simple strategy allows for an elegant yet relatable domestic finish, encompassing and enhancing all of the detailed characteristics of what remains of the historic narrative of the home.
The apartment is sprinkled with a number of free-standing designed furniture pieces, allowing for freedom of movement and flow. The only permanent piece of furniture is the kitchen countertop; and what a piece it is. Lightly dashed with hints of pink and white marble granules, the pink concrete worktop flows seamlessly from a horizontal plane into a backsplash and finally capped with a narrow and elegant ledge. All cast as one unique piece, this feature further highlights the attention to detail which is echoed throughout the apartment – the most agreeable discourse between aesthetic pleasure and utility.
The long outstretched breakfast bar extends towards a glass double door at the end of the kitchen, guiding you to the beautifully lit balcony which stretches almost the entire length of the apartment. A small table set for two provides an incredibly romantic setting, channeling the apartments inner "Lolita" and providing the perfect spot for a morning coffee, nestled in the treetops of the lush courtyard below.
The home as a whole, with all of its minimal yet particular design considerations, provides the sensation of full immersion into a wonderfully gentle world of Italian domestic bliss.
In the extreme north-west of the Italian Alps, immersed in the most unspoiled nature, Casa Cinsc is located in one of the few valleys spared by the expansion of mass tourism, which transformed the mountains between the 1950s and 1980s.
We are at almost 1,400 meters above sea level, where the roads become gradually steeper to reach the small group of houses perched on a mountain ridge. Places inhabited for generations that have maintained vast expanses of pasture meadows and cultivated land, have now returned to dense woods. An inevitable process of re-appropriation of nature that characterizes the existing valley and attracts a slow and respectful tourist flow.
The greatest value of this place can be summed up in a few words: the essence of the Alpine rural heritage and the inestimable value of the resources available, thanks to the rich natural context.
RUINS, TRACES OF A HISTORY
The first inspections revealed a ruin typical of the area, used mainly for the shelter of livestock and seasonal hay. The structure was rather precarious, in fragile balance, but it reserved unexpected discoveries.
In fact, a large stone arch and an ancient fireplace emerge on the ground floor, suggesting that before being used as a stable, the building had served as a residence. In addition, the presence of a sort of Tholos outside, less typical in the area, has given the complex more connotations.
Casa Cinsc is an act of recovery and a reinterpretation of the Alpine rural dwelling
for the enhancement of a precious heritage.
AGAINST THE ABANDONMENT OF THE ALPINE LANDSCAPE
Traditional architecture that emerges from the traces of a bucolic past, characterized by the garrison of men who were able to settle in respect of a hard place, made of steep slopes, rocks and lush woods.
Inaccessible and generous at the same time, it is precisely in these territories that the construction, typological and popular tradition is rooted and perpetuated, thus revealing the ‘culture of the mountains’.
BUILDING INSIDE THE BUILT
The project restores the old shape, consolidates the walls and intervenes by reconfiguring the interiors. From an exchange of volumes, an additional body arises that enriches the original layout and clarifies spaces and functions.
To do this, a redesign of a space at the heart of the house - the place of conviviality, the kitchen - was used, obtaining a double height capable of providing a useful surface for the extension. In this way the environment expands, granting greater comfort and flooding the space with natural light. The entrance and living room are therefore located in the new volume, with its heels on the mountain edge, could only turn towards the landscape.
The interior is thus configured as a privileged place from which to observe the profile of the surrounding peaks. The different openings that move the facades derive on the one hand, from the restoration of the previous ones and, on the other, they revisit archetypal geometries.
Designed from the inside out, these openings offer glimpses towards the landscape which build a new geography of the domestic space. Each environment thus enters into a direct and unique relationship with the natural world that surrounds it and of which, after all, it is very much a part of.
NOT SIMPLY WOOD
In a context strongly characterized by the use of stone, we internally choose wood for the floors, walls, ceilings and main furnishings. The contrast between exterior and interior is evident: outside a hard, cold stone body, mimetic with the landscape; inside, instead, an intimate and warm environment, where timber is the protagonist.
The traditional image thus remains unchanged, in strict compliance with regulatory requirements, which finds its balance with the interior environments linked to an image that draws, instead, on contemporary Alpine architecture.
This entirely wooden core fits inside the existing perimeter, tracing its shape. It is the principle of “space within space”, one of ATOMAAs tools for the reuse of Alpine ruins.
The levels, the existing and the new, appear to overlap each other. The materials; the stone with its thermal mass and the complete internal package with its frame, the wood fibre insulation and the birch plywood coating are stratified. The desired domestic comfort is thus generated by making the old ruin inhabitable.
The first room you come across is the living room, anticipated by a sort of vestibule. This space was conceived to observe the mountain accompanied by the warmth of a free-standing stove with a contemporary language.
Here the floor is in black resin, differentiating the new environment from the rest of the house, with their black stained larch floors.
Following slight differences in height, we move on to the pre-existing building where there once was the entrance door.
House Cinsc is unadorned, rigorous and minimal in language, as it was when it was conceived. The textures of the walls between old and new intertwine in a single mesh, hand-rebuilt stone by stone.
The interior, through the use of a few essential materials, instead shows a wealth of volumes, levels and proportions.
The kitchen / dining room is located, as usual, in the central core of the home, the real heart of the house, from which all the rooms branch off.
In this room, primarily lit from above, small windows frame the view towards the landscape, painting dynamic scenes as the seasons change.
The kitchen is characterized by a large piece of furniture that occupies the entire double height of the room and gives a contemporary face to the interior space. The room is filled with natural light that enters from the main gable, fully glazed.
WE REUSED EVERYTHING!
Total and almost obsessive reuse of the materials taken from the existing ruin. New life, even where the conditions of the structures did not allow them to be recovered: we reused everything! The stones of the old, disused portions of the walls were used to rebuild the new walls, the wood of the old roof to create door and window lintels.
The retaining walls of the terraces were built with portions of the excavated rock, as well as for the volume of the extension. In addition, the external paving re-uses the stone of the old stoned roof.
All this thanks to local artisans who still retain the skill of traditional stone house construction.
The volume of the services, with the kitchen wall and the two flights of stairs, is a real functional block for the use of the spaces for which it serves.
This central element acts as a hinge around which its uses flow providing functions which orbit around it.
Down a narrow staircase the main bedroom is located on the lower floor, to ensure greater privacy but above all to enjoy the privileged view from the stone arch.
The arched shape window provides a space for sitting and contemplation as the user has the luxury to gaze towards the landscape, through a unique tectonic element which mirrors and references a form which once was.
Up within the pitch of the roof, a second room is hidden on the upper floor, accessed by a retractable hatch.
Only from this height, through an opening in the wall, can you admire the landscape through the glazed tympanum.
In a valley of larch trees, the latter is the preferred choice, but where possible we reuse the older and grander timber elements, recovered from the disposal of the old floors and the deteriorated beams of the roof to give them a new function.
ROCK AND ABOVE
Casa Cinsc rises above the rock, partly determining the development of the house due to the need to accomodate the land. The existing and new walls are made of the same rock, an important presence that reveals itself intact in some of the rooms of the home.
Where neither the wood nor the stone reaches, here you will find raw exposed concrete, used in a timely manner, for the structure and where it is present it does not hide, but openly dialogues with the primary materials of the house.
NOTES ON RESTORATION
The respectful treatment of historical pre-existing structures was an important and almost obligatory gesture, against the background of a very complex regulatory and bureaucratic network.
The recovery was a balancing act between authenticity and contemporaneity, an attempt to maintain the atmosphere and identity of the place also by intervening between the new structure and the old structure, thus generating a contemporary dialogue, with the aim of preserving the Alpine Rural Heritage.
It is not only the need to escape, at times, from a highly urbanized reality, a reality with a thousand opportunities and unstoppable rhythms, but it is perhaps the rediscovery of a special bond with nature, which has always been inherent in us.
Observing the Alps with the ambition of building a new scenario of possibility and no longer a simple vacation spot, reflects a prosperous area where local economies can be rooted in a new form of sustainability -
by promoting sustainable tourism capable of fitting into an existing built local context and enriching it.
What, really, is this Alpine Rural Heritage? What is its richness?
The length of time now frozen, the history of the place, testified by those buildings conceived in a spontaneous, vernacular way. The creation of an anthropic landscape in perfect symbiosis with the surrounding nature.
The respectful proportion between the artefact and its environment, in the creation of a system that makes the built place indistinguishable from the natural landscape. Together they simply coexist.
Today, ATOMAA tries to interpret this trend, in a more ambitious framework, proposing this, as the first of a series of interventions aimed at reviving the local territory, preserving the anthropic balance of the place.
Typology: Alpine House
Place: Varzo, Italy
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Viviana Ramires, Samantha Furlotti, Ylenia Testore, Saeid Kalantari
Photography: Alberto Strada
General contractor: Alberto Giozza
Structural consultant: Boschi-Grugni Associati
Thermotechnician: Francesco Ollio
Carpenter (Structures and wood paneling): Segheria Minetti Marcello
Carpenter (Furniture): Workshop Moor
Carpenter (Doors and Windows): Falegnameria Minoggio
Concrete Specialist: Giambattista Caldara
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