Corstorphine Hill is one of the seven hills that surround the historic centre of Edinburgh, and is occupied in part by an enchanted wood, a zoo, and on the south side by a fairly dense residential fabric overlooking the magnificent Pentlands
Around the city of Edinburgh new residential compartments are emerging instead of large green expanses, with houses seemingly copy and pasted in sprawl-like fashion. The clients' choice was not to move away from the vibrant urban fabric, close to schools and neighbourhood shops and close to family, but to invest in a fairly dense semi-urban area, with the recovery of a small existing building, a parking garage and storage unit consisting of 2 levels, with an adjoining strip of garden large enough for the small son to explore and for the development of a small vegetable garden.
By promoting the reuse and redevelopment of already occupied and abandoned areas, they have chosen not to further consume new soil, the only truly finite and non-regenerable resource.
The project lot has a limited width, less than 5m, with neighbouring buildings touching its boundaries.
The main goal is to build a house that can meet the needs of a young couple with a small child, to grow together and live, study and work in environments with varying degrees of privacy, silence and light.
For the conformations of the lot, the internal spatial organization must develop in section, partly following the flowing course of the ground and moving back to the upper floors to create artificial landscapes towards the south.
The building sits in a very slim piece of land between very close neighbouring buildings. The characteristics of the ground have forced a mixed construction system, which includes a base, like an auditorium, with steps made in bands in concrete from 1 to 2 meters wide, with concrete piles. For the lower level, the perimeter walls are made of concrete blocks, while the two upper floors have a wooden structure. The façades on the short sides are characterized by prefabricated concrete panels. The top floor is coated with pigmented zinc.
The main facades, on the street and on the private garden to the south, reflect a tension towards the simplicity of the elements that compose them, reducing the figure to the massive trilithon system of the first two levels, and to the light frame of the metal structure on the upper floor.
The facades are not "designed", but excavated through an operation of reduction in the case of the compact volume, and are manifested through the materiality of a few elements; smooth concrete with inserts of local stones, aluminium windows and zinc cladding pigmented.
"[…] Quality materials and good workmanship […] they make ornamentation redundant.
Fine material is God’s own wonder. "
Adolf Loos, “Hands Off”, 1917
The window system alternates from small windows on a domestic scale, which can be opened for ventilation and protected by the overhangs of the roof, to large fixed windows which are shifted flush with the exterior of the facade. The depth given by the shift is inhabited, through different configurations of fixed furniture, in order to create favourable places for activities that require light and freedom of thought.
From street level one can access the intermediate floor. The entrance is a real vestibule, a generous entrance space, which also serves as a laundry and coat room.
The internal atmosphere aims to build a balance between different material surfaces and natural colour tones, as they occur in the landscape of Eastern Scotland, where the sandstone has shades of pink, ocher or sand.
The material elements are few; the pigmented or polished concrete of the floors or the defined accents of the steps, the natural oak and the walls in natural lime plaster.
Towards the south, the silence of the roof with wild flowers forms the backdrop to the main bedroom.
The internal landscape is constructed in section, the connecting vertical distribution is also a channel of natural light that brings light to the lower floors through the large skylight. The staircase is an object in itself, composed in the lower half in multilayer birch essence and in the upper half in folded lacquered perforated metal sheets.
The vertical development of the house is also reflected in the different degree of privacy of the rooms: starting from the lower floor, where the shared activities of life together take place, also in relation to the garden, up to the upper floors where the rooms become more silent and find a more direct relationship to the Pentland sky and landscape.
The spaces of family life together, with the domestic hearth, are located on the lower floor connected to the garden. The three main rooms (living, kitchen and dining) have different heights; this helps to change the proportions, brightness and acoustics.
The living room with a height of less than 2,5m is illuminated by a small patio and has cosy shadows, carpets and a fireplace.
The moments of the kitchen and dining, and of the relationship with the private garden, are concentrated towards the south window. The height reaches 4 meters and the garden becomes the domestic landscape, the background for dinners and lunches.
The façade system integrates the windows with the fixed benches around the convivial table; with the storage furniture and the open structure of the passing kitchen.
On the upper level there is the study, and the second bedroom. The first faces north, to benefit from more constant and regular lighting, while the bedroom faces south, towards the Pentlands, floating on a landscape of wild flowers.
"Not all who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien
Typology: Urban House
Place: Edinburgh, Scotland
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Philip Kolevsohn, Bianca Magi, Celia Cardona, Konstantinos Ballis, Margherita Dellepiane
Photography: ATOMAA Archive & justmuddlingthroughlife
Model photography: Alberto Strada
Structural consultant: David Narro Associated
Building Warrant and local coordination: Oliver Chapman Architects
SAP Calculation: Christine Palmer
“Forgetting is a parallel phenomenon to remembering; if you do not empty your head, your memory, you will have a cluttered memory, complicated thoughts... This is why forgetting is as important as remembering, they are complementary. And also in the project we must forget, as in life, to take a direction, to select... forgetting is a way of selecting. Which is a way to remember.” Fernando Tavora in conversation with Giovanni Leoni e Antonio Esposito, Porto 1999
The countryside southwest of Pistoia is flat and after Montecatini it turns into a large nature reserve called Padule di Fucecchio. On the border between the plain and the marshes, the design of the fields follows the orientation of the old ‘casoni’, which stand out against the landscape. They were buildings with mixed functions, partly residential and partly productive, and lay longitudinally with a South-East / North-West trend to allow the sun's rays to heat both long facades.
The construction materials are typically stone and bricks, artificial elements shaped by the hand of man, but so indivisible from the surrounding landscape. In some buildings, the overlapping of the windows on two sides transforms the material and gives it lightness, so the landscape also changes and from the background it becomes part of the domestic interior. In the old barns, the brick walls are displaced to accommodate natural light and ventilation.
In the old buildings, the different functions take on the forms of simple volumetric additions, as in the existing building, where each volume had its own raison d'etre which was reflected in the facades design and in the use of materials. Where closure and protection were needed, while allowing the passing of air and light, the brick was lightened and opened, as is the case in many of the old barns in the region.
The project building replaces the end part of a Casone. The design strategy aims to eliminate the different volumetric figures that have added up over time, and seeks a more abstract volumetric completeness, which manifests itself within the brick envelope. The interiors, on the other hand, are organized by proposing a certain spatial articulation.
The interiors are organized in closed rooms, service nuclei containing bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry, and which are freely composed in the space constituting in fact a new open, free environment, the result of the misalignment of the nuclei. The resulting space is the living space, open to the landscape and passing between the South-East and North-West façades.
The search for openness to the outside builds the project, the living spaces open with full-height glass surfaces, dimensionally included between the service nuclei. The large loggias are placed in continuity with the living areas, to help increase the open space to the outside; where the loggias build a filtered environment, a space in the middle, between the windows of the living rooms and the gelosia brick wall.
Extract from the local legislation: "In rural buildings in the area, the h / l ratio must be a maximum of 1.5 for windows with a maximum height not exceeding 130 cm; and 2.5 for doors with a maximum height not exceeding the 210 cm."
"Facade system with the aim of preventing introspection and, at the same time, able to allow those inside to look outside."
The project doesn't want to look new; it is based on traditional materials already existing on the site, such as brick or plaster of certain colours, all under the pitched roof in Tuscan-style tiles.
The facades are clad entirely in brick of traditional format and colour, laid reproducing the traditional texture used in barns: allowing the air to circulate and mediate the extreme heat of summers in the plains, while also modulating the light that filters and flows quietly inside.
"Blessed be all the metrical rules
That forbid automatic responses
Force us to have second thoughts
And free us from the fetters of the self."
W. H. Auden
All the internal walls are simply plastered in white, the floors are made of wood in the closed rooms, while in the living areas they are made of ceramic of various sizes. The layout and textures, which differ according to the apartment, play with the dark and light reflections of the light filtering through the perforated walls and large windows.
Typology: Countryside House
Place: Pistoia, Italy
Architectural Design: ATOMAA, with Michael Schmidt
Design Team: Paolo Restelli, Danilo Monzani, Daniela Serini, Mauro Atzeni,
Photography: ATOMAA Archive
Model photography: Alberto Strada
General contractor: Silvano Ferretti Srl
Structural consultant: Domus Ingegneria (Ingegneri Associati Ducci Monti)
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