When you buy a house you buy your future, but also a bit of its past. What are you going to do with that past?
There are so many good reasons not to throw away what you find on the fourth floor: it's simply already there and doesn't have to be transported. It should not be crammed and then disposed of in a landfill. And the new material that replaces it must be extracted (if not produced), packed, shipped, lifted, laid, treated.
They are all "good" reasons, but where is the "beautiful"?
In this house the gift is the Palladian floor in Carrara and red Levanto marble. And then there is the one of elegance, in black Portoro.
Just where new pipes and new services will have to pass. Or where the desire for new divisions and spatiality requires the presence of a new wall. If, for all these reasons, we need a new floor, why not use the old one to make the new one?
Why not consider the house as the quarry for this new materiality, trying to transform within its walls, without letting anything out?
Helped by the hand of someone who knows the secrets of this matter, we can patiently crack. Then clean up and set aside.
Then decide together what the new form of this material will be.
With a small "stonecutter" the house that was previously quarried becomes a laboratory: small lines are obtained from the flakes of Carrara and Levanto. Their shape, with one side cut by the blade and the other broken, keeps the memory of its transformations.
With a common "hole saw" other flakes are transformed into the purest (Platonic) of shapes: the circle.
All this matter, which has never left the place where we found it, is ready for its new form and to participate in a new story.
When approaching the recovery of stone buildings present in the historic Alpine villages, bearing witness to the simplicity and authenticity of rural mountain life, our starting point, a point of the highest value, is the stratification of history.
The richness of layers that have slowly overlapped over time through an act of exfoliation are rediscovered.
Our research aims to add another layer to this long story but without erasing or overwriting this accumulated wealth.
In varied situations, in an almost surgical way and without too much planning, we naturally discover and appreciate the surprises that these architectures reserve for us.
44 square meters. Is it big? Not really. But in Milan... already quite big, perhaps. ATOMAA, a studio founded in 2018 by Andrea Del Pedro Pera, Cesare Galligani and Umberto Maj, is familiar with issues related to "micro-living". Between spatial strategy and decorative tricks, the three partners know how to reveal space.
It was necessary, for this project, to reverse the table! ATOMAA took the daring step of reversing a plan which, in the eyes of the three partners of the studio, proved to be irrelevant. “What's the point of keeping a distribution that doesn't offer good diffusion of natural light inside a home?”, they wonder. The objective was therefore to deport, to the back of the apartment, far from the openings, a "technical unit" comprising kitchen and bathroom in order to free up all the windows.
“The apartment is, after all, located on the first floor of a building and overlooks an interior courtyard; capturing the little sun available was our priority”, they say. For the clients, the challenge was quite different: to turn an unattractive place into an attractive rental accommodation. Beyond this imperative, carte blanche has been given. “We therefore thought of a place of life where each function can have a specific space, without making use of too rich a rhetoric.” Understand: be simple and open. To this objective, the architects add other requirements. Among them, “flexibility”. This is an imperative linked to what they call “micro-housing”. Nothing should interfere with the volume and everything should be adjustable.
“It's a constantly changing dwelling,” assure the architects. To this practical aspect are added aesthetic considerations.
The decoration should not clutter the space. All useful elements are reduced to their simplest expression. The handles, for example, disappear in favour of holes made in the sliding doors.
Matter is also the only source of ornamentation. The grain of the wood, the alternation of different shades of oak, light and dark, or the ceramic tiles laid in a diamond pattern ensure the adornment of the place.
The partners of ATOMAA thus demonstrate, through this project, how much this aphorism of Álvaro Siza that they like to quote is indeed true: “Architects do not invent anything, they transform reality.”
ATOMAA decided to create an apartment made up of three different sequences, each with its dedicated window as a source of natural light. The whole thing can be divided and rearranged by pushing and pulling wooden panels or curtains.
For this apartment, no decoration, only materials: cupboards and removable partitions in birch plywood, painted bricks, oak parquet flooring alternating light and dark colours and, finally, 10 × 10cm ceramic tiles laid diamond in the kitchen but also in the bathroom.
A “technical block” has been created at the back of the apartment. It contains the bathroom, the kitchen, a hot water tank and the air conditioning system. It thus frees up space and, as a bonus, allows you to recompose the apartment by taking advantage of the three windows overlooking the courtyard of the building.
For more content: Text: Jean-Philippe Hugron Photos: Gregory Abbate View the project: Link View the publication: Link
On the 29th of November 2022, in the magnificent setting of the Belvedere Jannacci, located on the 31st floor of the Pirelli Skyscraper in Milan, the Best Italian Future Living Design Selection event took place, organised by PLATFORM architecture and design in collaboration with SIEMENS Home Appliances.
50 Italian architecture and interior design studios were selected to provide their personal vision of the contemporary design of new hybrid living spaces. During the event, all invited designers took turns on stage, recounting their vision in a short speech.
"Interior architecture in Italy has been throughout the past century one of the freest and happiest areas of experimentation and research in our design culture that is unparalleled in the rest of the western world for its uniqueness and richness."
"I have been saying for years that a parallel, almost private history of Italian architecture could be written just by using its interior designs, and it would be an exciting tale capable of recounting generations of young designers, excellent craftsmen, dedicated companies and courageous clients. It would be a true insight into the history of our country through its domestic interiors!"
- Luca Molinari
What the pages of this volume recount is a further evolutionary transition, because the sense of freedom and the desire to experiment remain, but the shape of the home and the habits of its inhabitants are changing. Homes are losing the functional and rigid scores of the century just gone by, while the need for flexibility and fluidity in the way we inhabit and experience domestic spaces is leading designers to work on forms of living in which mobility, the invisible presence of household appliances, technological intelligence and widespread sustainability give shape to environments that are more complex and elementary at the same time.
The close relationship between form and function is definitely transforming and leading to a simplification of domestic places that allows everyone to experience the home in a more personal and conscious way. The Italian projects that flow before our eyes have definitively eliminated the separation between kitchen and living, production and social life, privacy and work, because our lives, especially after this long pandemic, have stressed traditional homes so radically that new generation spaces were already beginning to emerge in the work of some of the more visionary architects and developers. Added to this is the urgent need for supports and places that have a clear sustainable and ecological character and are capable of affecting the way we manage energy and consumption responsibly.
We are at the first steps of an important metamorphosis of living and I am certain that Italian architecture will be able to offer important perspectives and projects, capable of helping an environmental and cultural transition that we all urgently need.
What the pages of this volume recount is a further evolutionary transition, because the sense of freedom and the desire to experiment remain, but the shape of the home and the habits of its inhabitants are changing.
Homes are losing the functional and rigid scores of the century just gone by, while the need for flexibility and fluidity in the way we in habit and experience domestic spaces is leading designers to work on forms of living in which mobility, the invisible presence of household appliances, technological intelligence and widespread sustainability give shape to environments that are more complex and elementary at the same time.
We are at the first steps of an important metamorphosos of living and I ma certain that Italian architecture will be able to offer important perspectives and projects, capable of helping an environmental and cultural transition that we all urgently need.
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A very steep road crosses the mountain to reach a small group of houses perched on a ridge. We are in one of the rare regions spared by mass tourism of the 1950s. Pastures and cultivated fields have given way to dense woods. There, an old stable that has become a ruin, in delicate balance, reserved some surprises for those who were to transform it. Indeed, Andrea Del Pedro Pera, Cesare Galligani and Umberto Maj, founders of the Milanese architecture firm ATOMAA, could not have suspected the presence of a large stone vault and a fireplace on the ground floor, remains of a past residence.
This pass is reactive thanks to the restoration of the old form and the consolidation of the walls, but above all with the development of new places of cohabitation - the kitchen and dining room - at the heart of the existing volume. In order to best serve all rooms of the house spread over the three levels, the architects create a central core of laminated birch plywood that hosts the staircase.
Anxious to integrate the project into its environment, the designers opt for an exterior of stone “where the textures of the walls between old and new intertwine into a single stitch, reconstructed by hand, stone by stone". The interior is more of a wooden box inserted into the stone envelope: floors, walls and ceilings are composed of elements from old floor-boards and deteriorated roof beams, or larch of the valley, when needed. The result, therefore, is that more sober, rigorous, and minimal.
At nearly 1,400 meters above sea level, northwest of the Italian Alps, a ruin typical of the region previously housed cattle and hay. The Milanese architects of ATOMAA transformed it into an elegant contemporary house of great sobriety. And to do this, they use every stone and piece of wood found on site.
ATOMAA transforms a ruined stable into a contemporary house without betraying its past thanks to respect for volumes and materials. The exterior retains its stone body blending with the landscape, while the interior offers a new intimate and warm wooden cocoon.
Reuse is a key element of the project: the walls were built with the stones of the old disused parts, the lintels of the doors and windows with the wood of the old roof; the retaining walls of the terraces as well as the volume of the extension erected from portions of excavated rock.
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During the summer months of 2021 in Venice, Platform architecture and design organised an important initiative that saw the simultaneous staging of two thematic exhibitions, involving 140 architecture studios from all over the world.
"Best Italian Interior Design" offers an overall of interior design by Italian architects, with no limitation in terms of geography or type (residential, hospitality, retail, etc.); while "Best International Houses" offers a view of the world's places to live through the selection of 70 projects chosen by a scientific committee on the basis of applications from all five continents.
The prestigious location of the event is the Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Misericordia in Venice. Completely restored in 2015, today the Misericordia is a monumental space where art, history and culture dialogue with the territory, and is an institutional venue for prestigious exhibitions, installations and cultural events.
For each of the two exhibitions, a dedicated volume collecting the selected projects has been published, together with a General Catalogue of Casa Platform Venezia, concerning the partner companies of the event and the cultural initiatives scheduled.
For more content on this project: View the project: link View the publication: link View the presentation: link Photography by: Marco Cappelletti
"Architects don't invent anything; they transform reality"
The first steps
We started off in university with a field trip to Brno, which led to countless beers and talks about what we'd like to be when we grow up.
Then from a basement space with ping pong tables and Casabella, after long nights of collaboration and brainstorming, we would work tirelessly on our master thesis. At some point, along came the diaspora: the 'Foz do Douro; the ancient theatre of Epidaurus the Atacama Desert; in the time left over we did some competitions too. This was followed by a number of apprenticeships: at Chipperfield Archi-tects, Onsitestudio, and time spent doing research , at the Polytechnic University of Milan. After all that, on one night, upholding a 15 years long tradition of drinking a beer together, the decision to try to do it all together was born; and so began ATOMAA.
Honouring the unexpected
In one of our projects a renovation of an old apartment, on removal of the wooden floor, a rugged yet beautiful configuration was revealed: underneath, alter decades of being hidden trom sight, was an irregular layout complete in itself, forgotten even by those who had produced it long before. The image of the original floor substructure which was laid in an apparently casual yet effective manner highlights the work of a local artisan in which the hand of a man seemed to be the only rule. We then decided to honour that forgotten gesture by bringing it back to life and representing it in the new concrete floor. The idea was immediately loved by the client and we were allowed to create a very unique floor.
Keeping calm and a healthy balance
We try to maintain a balance between our work and private lives. We try to keep the studio closed on weekends and we also encourage our colleagues and collaborators to follow a good hourly balance. We believe that the things we learn simply by living are just as useful for design as the time spent in the studio. You will never be able to design a good kitchen if you do not know how to cook a good dish. Even if the organisation of time in contemporary project processes is often frenetic, we practice the 'Resistenza': we take the time to discuss ongoing projects in a slow and calm manner and then make calculated decisions and even work by hand. We build models to study details; we use freehand sketches to help us reason and develop ideas; we use mood boards of real material samples, which is simply irreplaceable. Group discussions during what we call, 'project workshops', allow us to come together and to present ideas around a table and this has formed the essence of the ATOMAA design process.
We have just moved into a new workspace in Milan in an area called Nolo, one of the new design districts of the city. Our office, situated on the ground floor, has two display windows onto the street which connect us with the world passing by, while the back of the office opens onto an internal courtyard, a silent and lush urban oasis which blooms in spring. On the ground floor we have an operational open space with two collective work tables, a small table for on-the-go project reviews, and a relaxation area. In the lower level, under a beautiful brick vaulted ceiling, we have both a more private room suitable for the rather meditative moments as well as for daily meetings with our Edinburgh office. We also have a dedicated workshop for building models and sample processing.
The collective act of building
Of course, we too graduated with the desire to make big buildings (our 3 theses were a library, a museum, and a skyscraper). Currently we are working on domestic architecture, interior spaces and small houses. We almost always work in pre-existing contexts and ancient buildings in the centre of Milan, as well as in rural contexts in the Alps, or in central Italy. Over time, common aspects have emerged in our creative process: one of these, perhaps the main one, is an aversion to the 'tabula rasa'. We believe in the importance of buildings, rather than projecting great competition just as a study of ideas. We believe in learning by doing, respecting the people who are committed to the great collective process of building and to further enhance the materials with which we build.
Understanding our place
Design is not a purpose but rather a means which has the pursuit of happiness as its goal. At a time when this right is accepted and expressed by more and more people, a stance on the use of this gift (material and human) is unavoidable. Here is ours: we understood that the answer may not necessarily come from "invention" (for example the latest synthetic material, designed for a super performance) but rather from reinterpretation, reuse and transformation. The idea behind this mode of operation is that of reducing "waste" (which often has to do with attributing the value we give to
Thus, our research on micro-living has, at its heart, the reduction of wasted space, and it's better used where it has already been transformed i.e., the city centre in which it sits. The past instils in us a fascination equal to that of the future: it is basically a treasure chest of brilliant solutions to very practical questions once posed, in a world in which producing (and consuming) energy was less easy.
"The team at ATOMAA were inspired by the ingenuity of Japanese design and modern European architecture. "
"Milan's Brera district is surprisingly peaceful given its central location and proximity to several Christian pilgrimage sites. In fact, the medieval district was planned, laid out and built up well before the first automobile was a glint in Karl Benz's eye. So while Brera is surrounded by a circular series of viali, its residents benefit from a distinct lack of heavy traffic."
In certain parts of the neighbourhood, narrow strade give way to wide piazzas where pedestrians peruse the trendy fashion boutiques, or can be seen enjoying the robust alfresco dining scene. This trendy part of Milan is dominated by apartment living - and stepping into a variety of homes would be to see a tapestry of the district over the centuries.
While many buildings here are hundreds of years old, most were built during the 1800s and have undergone multiple renovations over the years. However, none reflect a modern vision for small-footprint sustainable living better than the Brera apartment by Milanese architecture firm, ATOMAA.
Located in an 18th-century building, this apartment could not be more disparate from its exterior. The wall dividing the existing bedroom and the living room was the only significant change made by ATOMAA when creating the space he needed to execute an 'origami-inspired' design. The open space gave him the flexibility to create a series of sliding timber panels that can be rearranged to accommodate the needs of the residents. At only 32 sq m (344 sq ft), there wasn't a lot of space to work with. However, this clever configuration created separation between the bedroom, dining area, kitchen and living room."
"Normally in a home of this size, storage space is the first thing to go. There's simply not enough room. This makes the creativity of Brera's design so much more intriguing.
Storage here is abundant. From the raised sleeping platform, which hinges up to reveal an ample wardrobe under the bed, to plenty of kitchen cabinets (a must for an Italian home), every bit of space is utilised. There's even a set of hidden stairs that slide out to make the 1.4 m (4.6 ft) trip to the raised bed a little easier.
It's small details like the circular holes cut into all the cabinetry in lieu of handles that make Brera extra special.
The same ubiquitous holes are cut into the timber of the sliding panels that hide the sleeping area during the day."
When the panels are completely closed, they let a smattering of natural light enter the room.
The notion of flexibility is a standout of this design. Brera shapeshifts frequently over the course of a day. A guest turning up in the morning, afternoon or evening would see a different configuration each time. A small-footprint resident doesn't have the luxury of moving to various rooms to accomplish their daily activities. Instead, they must transform their space to accommodate their lifestyle.
The project of "a house for an antimatter physicist" brings together many of the themes dear to us: the challenge of space, understood as the search for its maximum potential, but also the relationship with the existing. All seasoned with a passion for handmade and a certain inclination to playfulness and surprise.
"we always see the project as an opportunity to add elements to an existing text, not to rewrite it."
What was the client's request?
In one word, renewal. For the first time, well beyond the desire for novelty with which clients often present themselves, this renewal was motivated by a profound feeling: the redemption of an unhappy childhood lived within those same walls. The client is a person accustomed to lateral thinking (an antimatter physicist), the desires for space and comfort were a multitude: a large whirlpool tub for two, an alcove with private bathroom and dressing room, a second bathroom with shower, a study with a guest bed, a comfortable kitchen, a living room with a fireplace (!), a reading area and a genkan where you can leave your shoes as soon as you enter the house.
How did you envision treating the room and the bed?
When we think of the bedroom we like to refer to the intimate and protective spatiality of the alcove: a minimal and square space where you can take refuge from the stimuli of the outside world. But at the same time we also try to refer to the comfortable world of certain hotel suites, to be able to dream of being on vacation even when you are not. This is why we always try to propose a special relationship with the private bathroom, a place for self-care, and the comfort of a spacious walk-in closet, perhaps with a seat.
In this case, a simple piece of furniture, as long as the space of the room, adds several spatial devices in a single birch volume: the 3 steps leading to the bathroom, a large chest, a comfortable seat and a white metal clothing stand for the open part of the walk-through wardrobe. A sliding panel, of the same material, floats on this volume like a veil and hides behind it the spatiality of a private spa in green mosaic.
A large concrete porthole plays with the conventions of intimacy and modesty, connecting the bathtub with the bedroom.
The white tones of the resin on the floor and the stuccoes, the warm colour of the birch and the frankness of the concrete artifacts form the calm and luminous background of the resting place.
What does the theme "rest" mean to you?
Vincent van Gogh, Arles, October 1888,
Rest is more than sleep. Like many human needs, it extends beyond biological necessity. To the point that the thought that there are many actions we take to rest does not surprise us. Rest is not inactivity. And that is why it needs a spatiality that corresponds to it. The place of rest is therefore also the space in which to read poems, the space of yoga as soon as you wake up, the space of meditation.
All places or functions that seem neglected in the descriptions of housing offers. The theme of rest can be superimposed on the one most dear to us, comfort, understood as a moment of compensation or a break from the turmoil of exciting, productive and public life.
"Sweet dreams" we say: whether they are with closed eyes or with open eyes.
"Noon: Rest from Work" (after Jean-François Millet),
Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
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