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)
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
High above the treetops of one of the most beautiful streets in Milan, the sun fills an apartment with light, where functionality and aesthetics compete for the throne. The house, designed and built in the fall of 2019, narrates the story of those who live within: a young couple with a passion for reading, cinema, design and music.
The architectural project is tailored to the clients’ desires with precision and dedication: the environments retain their original nature but are distorted in aesthetics and colours. A partition divides the original room used for the kitchen, obtaining - on the one hand - a compact dining room characterized by decorative wallpaper, a legacy of British domestic spaces, and - on the other - a minimal, elegant and functional kitchen.
The existing living room, well defined by walls, corridors and a washroom, changes its face and becomes a large open space, characterized by a colourful floor in concrete grit, which creeps into every room. The space opens, through a sequence of large portals, towards the kitchen and dining room on one side, and towards a reading-nook and bow-window, towards the other.
The act of opening continues to the study/guest room through a series of large portal doors. The latter, however, completely integrated into a long bookcase, hides panels of an intense yellow, which provide a defined division between the entertainment and private spaces.
The bedroom and the study, on the other hand, maintain their antique style, with the original recovered parquet floors. These two rooms are bound to the rest of the home through a number of arched portals which allow one to expand ones field of view and fill the home with natural light. The arch and the curve are certainly two key elements of the project: they can be found in the bathroom, in the furniture and in the internal doors in a playful interpretation of the clients’ dreams.
The bathroom is not a secondary environment: a real salle de bains has been designed with the aim of obtaining refined and tailor-made environments, coherently integrating the room intended for comfort services in the domestic space. The bathroom is divided into soft and fluid spaces that welcome a series of design objects carefully selected in partnership with the clients. The shower acts as a “passage” element that connects the master bathroom, accessible from the bedroom, to the secondary guest bathroom. This functional transition both eliminates additional distribution spaces to the services and filters the light coming from the master bathroom to the secondary bathroom, through the large integrated high level window.
The search for colour is fundamental in the design process: in this environment, pastel pink and dark green alternate elegantly, creating a bright contrast with the matte black finishes chosen for the taps, the profiles of the shower box, mirror and washbasin. Every detail has been evaluated and considered through a happy collaboration with the clients, another fundamental feature of the projects signed by ATOMAA.
The project, while not upsetting the original layout of the house, gives the new owners flexible spaces, brightness, wide fields of view and a succession of varied environments that are always in communication with each other.
Place: Milan, Italy
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Samantha Furlotti, Francesca Luci, Viviana Ramires
Photography: Alberto Strada
General contractor: EDILBM GROUP SRL
Carpenter: Workshop Moor
The project focuses on the construction of spaces using original materials and added elements; even if in contrast, they communicate openly to create lively environments, populated by the owners' collection of designer objects..
The internal distribution has a clear hierarchy: the large common space communicates, through three portals of the same size, directly with the main service spaces such as entrance, kitchen and hallway. These spaces, with individually distinct finishes and proportions, in turn, communicate with each other with secret passages, carved out of the fixed furnishings integrated into the walls.
The domestic atmosphere is characterized by the use of dissonant materials: the original herringbone parquet, in cherry wood, is combined without transitions with silipol tiles, an aggregate composed of spheres of pressed granite, marble and cement powders, typical of Milan’s first Metro stations, designed by the Albini-Helg studio. In the kitchen, the green silipol is combined with fixed elm wood and porphyry shelves.
Place: Milan, Italy
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Francesca Luci, Ylenia Testore, Danilo Monzani
Photography: Alberto Strada
General contractor: Relazioni Edili Snc Carpenter: Studio Giacomo Moor
The main project intervention was to move the bathroom from the previous location and to relocate it near to the perimeter wall, furthest from the natural light from the windows. This presented the possibility to centralize the elements needed for fixed functional uses, such as storage furniture, the wardrobe, washing machine and entrance, all positioned along the perimeter wall, in a sort of act of thickening that wall. The result was that the main spaces for everyday life, were located near the light sources, in a sort of continuous open and free space.
We created an ordered sequence of the three different spaces, each one with a dedicated window as a source of natural light, which can be divided and reorganized with the pushing and pulling of timber panels or curtains.
All of the custom made furniture and the timber panels and doors are made in birch plywood and treated with transparent polyurethane varnish.
From a colour and texture point of view, the apartment is characterized by a very restricted palette, consisting of white, light grey, polished steel and different examples of natural wood. The floor is finished in alternating natural and dark durmast oak, laid in a diagonal orientation.
The walls, left in exposed bricks, are painted light grey from the floor to 215 cm high, and then coated in an enamel white paint until the ceiling.
Two rooms in the smaller courtyard of a historic 18th century residence, Palazzo Tornielli di Barengo, were transformed into an extension of a large law firm located in the same building.
The magnificence, the stuccos and the late Baroque furniture of the main rooms are contrasted by the intimate and calm atmosphere of the two rooms in sequence, dedicated to more private meetings and gatherings, but also to moments of work in which greater isolation allows a different type of concentration.
The function was almost built on the project, as the client, after a quick initial briefing, left the designers with the challenge of shaping the use of space on the design of furnishings and mezzanines that enhanced the existing spaces. Somehow, we dare to say that the function has followed, in this case, the form, even if this process has, in many ways, undergone a opposite.
The project builds, through the design of the oak furnishings, a series of (co)respondence between of the elements (mezzanines, stairs, bookcases, containers) mainly situated along the perimeters, according to a principle of mutual necessity.
The first area, dedicated to reception and waiting, is covered by a plastered vault and houses a container staircase that leads to a mezzanine with low shelves and seats for consultation.
The underlying bookcase, with a fast and regular rhythm, is the daughter of the mezzanine structure.
A portal-boiserie containing a service and storage room leads to the main room, whose original finishes (sown on the ground with a frame and vault in exposed brick) were maintained in dialogue with the design of the modern taste of the furnishings.
Client: MONTEVERDE Law Firm
Place: Novara, Italy
Architectural Design: ATOMAA, Studio Asabesi
Design Team: Eleonora Salsa, Umberto Maj, Daniela Serini, Manuela Cruz Torres, Elizaveta Ukhabina, Simone Marusi
Photography: Lorenzo Piovella
General Contractor: Relazioni Edili Snc
Carpenter: Donghi Arredi, Projet Metal
Nestled in the heart of NoLo, a new creative design district of Milan, Nolita is a roomy guest house apartment located in a twentieth century building with vintage ceiling details and original Deco floor tiles. A long central corridor acts as the main artery of the home from which, 2 bathrooms, a communal kitchen and 5 bedrooms can be found, all lightly kissed by natural light.
The design approach aims to use the existing narrative of the apartment to inform light interventions, achieving a series of spaces which reflect their own atmosphere while still in communication with each other. These interventions range from the careful choice of colour used to frame the rooms; to the selection of a number of custom designed furniture pieces; and the romantic choice of cutlery and crockery. This subtle yet meaningful attention to detail aims to show a tasteful architecture of common sense which, until now, has been trapped behind closed shutters.
Throughout the apartment, the existing floor tiles are referenced in order to narrate the atmosphere of the rooms and to influence the colour palette for each room. The decision to paint the lower half of the walls while leaving the upper part white aims to show the relationship with the existing floor while allowing natural light to reflect off the walls and ceiling. This serves as a memory of when the shutters were reopened after many years - light and colour - a gesture which is repeated every morning.
The apartment is sprinkled with a number of bespoke furniture elements, which aim to make for a comfortable stay for guests. As is the case with many Italian homes, the kitchen acts as the heart of the home, in this case providing a space for gathering and storytelling.
The kitchen is a unique element built of pink concrete with white Carrara marble. This bespoke design piece is handmade in one single attempt and its curves allude to the past, a functional necessity, while communicating with the two oblò windows above.
Typology: Guest House
Place: Milan, Italy
Architectural Design: ATOMAA, Studio Asabesi
Design Team: Umberto Maj, Eleonora Salsa, Samantha Furlotti, Simone Marusi
Colour Consultant: Marta Lavinia Carboni
Photography: Sara Magni
General contractor: ASDM di Erriu Antonio
Carpenter: Donghi Arredi, Projet Metal
Bespoke Concrete Furniture: Caldara Giambattista
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