Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

So far, the tiniest

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This is by far the smallest apartment we imagined. Our Milanese miniature. The city hideaway of three smart girls.

The square meters are 21, just over a double bedroom according to conventions. But conventions and metrics do not make a home. What is really needed? How much can be removed from a system of objects, functions and symbols while leaving the idea of home and the comfort it provides us intact?

The primordial refuge is not much more than a hearth and a protected space for rest. But if the refuge moves downtown, then it needs an additional space, one consecrated to the spirit of the city. It consists of this and little more: an alcove behind a screen, a small kitchen, a living room, and our most beloved knick-knacks.

Here, two windows overlook a quiet courtyard and three magnolia trees. And they are high enough to frame a private piece of sky. Outside, just beyond the curtain of a 1920s building, swarms the city of design with its international schools (IED is just around the corner) and of its renowned pastry shops.

These are the dowries of this little treasure chest, that is the remnant of a reckless subdivision of the 80s: the silence and the light of these two views. ​

The subdivision of the 80s dedicated one of the two views to the bathroom: the other to a small bedroom. None, on the contrary, to an entrance that over the years ended up hosting the lunch space.

The initial instinct was to give new life to this pair of windows and give it back to the main space of the house. That one of these would fill the entrance with light and the second would reveal itself as soon as you crossed the threshold, accompanying your gaze to a diagonal view, the longest possible.

We wanted to articulate the space, together with its degrees of intimacy, through the simplest possible gesture: a white curtain wall (which thinks it is a screen) as it moves closer or more distant to the external walls, hides the secluded space of the bathroom, draws the spatiality of the dinette, and finally becomes the shelter of a small and welcoming alcove. The planes on which we step change in these three spaces, with the aim of taking care of their proportions.

When the plan you work on is a 5,5 by 3,8 meters rectangle, everything seems too close, every space too vertical, every piece of furniture bulky. So, remembering Eames and his room, we resorted to all the necessary tricks, putting into practice the tricks of a craft we are learning.

The full-height mirror, which is half the door to the bathroom and half the door of a cabinet, doubles the size of the entrance and frees the screen wall from its constraints. But it is also the very useful mirror for the last look at your outfit before leaving home.

The spatiality is broadened by the horizontal design of the furniture, which never exceeds the two ancestral heights: that of standing work and that of sitting.

The supplies thus hide secrets in the lowest part of their volume, leaving the task of showing off the most beautiful objects to the lightness of thinner structures.
The alcove (al-Kubba!), if it wants to be such, must pull its ceiling closer: the bed surface is higher than usual, suggesting the idea that the shelter is such only when it creates a little distance from the world.
The blue color of the back wall is a trick to increase the depth of the living room but it is also the right color to envelop your awakening.

When space is limited then it must be flexible and pleasantly ambiguous: what it is a kitchen at 7 at 9 it is my little cinema. What makes this duplicity possible are the special furnishing objects, which when open evoke a spatiality, when closed a completely different one.

The dining table is round and more generous than one might think for our little urban retreat. Its metamorphosis takes place in two moves too: the top retracts to become a white circular canvas on the wall, while the shelf that supports it becomes the backrest of the bench that extends under the windows.

The kitchen has a steel backsplash that closes in two movements, hiding burners and water, and relieving the space from disorder. This gesture and its curved shape make it resemble a chest or a console, two objects that soon take us back to the image of a small lounge.

Finally, the wooden bed-alcove contains within itself all the elements of the small bedroom, almost as if it were a small treasure chest, the trunk that contains our most useful clothes for our trip to the city.

Its headboard, deep enough to accommodate bedtime books, hides comfortable cabinets. Its top lifts and a tiny door gives us access to a small personal walk-in closet with two fronts.

A secret drawer, present in the equipped wall of the living room, is the comfortable step that allows us to hide on the floor of this welcoming alcove.​

These spaces, although alive with transformations, aim to convey a sense of calm serenity. This is why we thought of a limited and truthful material palette: what is made of wood reveals its vital essence, what is metallic shows its sidereal shine. Everything is designed to favor light and its reflections: the white plastered walls of the living room reveal the bright colors of the more cozy and intimate spaces.

Thus, a small window above the kitchen-console illuminates the space with the ruby reflection with which the bathroom is covered, where the handmade zellige tile wants to evoke the vaporous intimacy of a small and personal spa. In an ambiguous and very fun to design illusion, the mirror over the sink becomes transparent in its highest part to allow the entry of natural light coming from beyond the wall.

But the materiality that we are happiest with it is the floor that ties everything together. Because it contains within itself and in its personality-wise design, the unscrupulous non-conformism of the three smart girls who called us and the trace of the skilled hand of the craftsman who composed it. Lots of samples and lots of fun.

CREDITS

Client: Private
Typology: Micro Living
Place: Milan, Italy
year: 2024.01
Sqm: 21
Project Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Umberto Maj, Andrea del Pedro Pera, Cesare Galligani, Bianca Magi, Fabio Figaroli
Photographer: Alberto Strada

Project Partners

Contractor: Relazioni Edili RE
Carpenter: Roncoroni Legno
Windows: Fratelli Bergamaschi
Doors: Roncoroni Legno
Steel work: Roncoroni Legno
Bespoke Paving: Mosaic Factory

A House of Crimson Flames

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"You have to love life to love architecture; the architecture is a manifestation, in fact, a very important one, of life; without life, what happens to architecture?"

- Fernando Tavora

Milanese apartments often have something that ties them together, beyond entrances that are too small or enormous or elongated kitchens. Something that tends to organize, divide space, build rooms. The rooms have a door. They are divided from each other and look out. Sometimes the doors slam when they close, making a noise you won’t forget.

Beginning again by changing house, moving to Milan, perhaps also means dealing with distances, the proportions of spaces. In reality we don’t know if geography is central, and how it comes into play in this project.


But in this house in the suburban streets of Milan, the distribution of the plan aims to reaffirm the thickness of the body of a Milanese building, as there are many, freeing diagonal views and eliminating the world made up of rooms. It wants to try to unite, not to divide, to “dissolve, not to tear”.

The Canada of novels and cinematic film wants to convey to us infinite landscapes, conifers, lakes, the cold outside and the warmth in the living rooms.

This is why there are few doors, and they are not all the same, and they do not all close in the same way; some have a single door and are two hundred and ten high, others have double swinging doors and contain coats and another that looks like a wall, balanced and as high as the ceiling, and colorful and always open. Not all doors always close, some rarely and some never.

This is also the case among the veins of the Alpi Sottsass that form the storage totem positioned to the side, in a strange object that speaks and gestures and interacts with its various sides, mirrored towards the entrance, a bar corner towards the sofa and a wine cellar towards the dinner table.

The space which, as we know, is in the void between things, has an almost liquid shape which does not stop but continues along the walls from one side to the other, and comes to rest near the window, in front of the trees of the courtyard.

“we should always keep in mind that space is jagged around every cherry tree and every leaf on every branch that moves in the wind, and every serration on the edge of every leaf, and also shapes itself on every leaf vein, and on the network of veins inside the leaf and on the piercings with which the arrows of light riddle it at every moment, everything printed in negative in the paste of the void, so that there is nothing that does not leave its mark, every possible footprint of every possible thing, and at the same time every transformation of these footprints moment by instant, so that the pimple that grows on the nose of a caliph or the soap bubble that settles on the breast of a washerwoman changes the general shape of space in all its dimensions”.

(Italo Calvino, Le Cosmicomiche, Milan, 1993)

The surfaces want to be coloured, or rather they want to be color and matter. The concrete floor is not designed but built from drops of poured pigmented cement, in an ambiguous mix between some Silipol from the Milanese underground, the chromatic choices of Pirellone linoleum and a painting by Jackson Pollock. The resin of the aubergine coloured platform plays with the almost majorelle blue of the bathroom, the wallpaper there pays homage to Picasso, deservedly so.

Everything is colourful, and why shouldn’t it be? The owners have a passion for graphics, materials and vivid colour. Only one of the black and white bathrooms remained, like a squared notebook yet to be written (or coloured?).

Then the walls slowly become populated and collect pieces of previous times, where the handles make movements with the hands and the paintings tell stories of family friends and tram posters. Slowly the house stops being a construction site and begins to live, to re-live.

“Life continued because life continues, and time passed, because time passes.”

- Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is illuminated

Credits

Client: Private
Typology: Apartment
Place: Milan, Italy
Year: 2023.09
Sqm: 100
Project Design: ATOMAA & Fabio Figaroli
Design Team: Umberto Maj, Andrea del Pedro Pera, Cesare Galligani, Fabio Figaroli, Philip Kolevsohn, Marika Grasso, Andrea Giustozzi
Photographer: Francesco Stelitano

Project Partners

Contractor: Relazioni Edili RE
Carpenter (bespoke furniture): Donghi Arredi
Windows: Fratelli Bergamaschi
Doors: Donghi Arredi
Kitchen: Donghi Arredi
Steel work: QUBO costruzioni metalliche
Carpenter: Console MATE Design
Bespoke Paving: Mosaic Factory

Urban Nook Apartment

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At the end of a tiny street south of Città Studi, a small apartment hides from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The building that welcomes it has a beautiful 1930s façade, painted in a warm Milanese yellow: but the protagonist is a lively wisteria plant, which for years has enjoyed climbing, veiling windows and balconies. The Palladian floors in the atrium and the steps in Carrara marble, which time has made more precious, conclude this decò atmosphere.

In a corner of this beautiful building, we found an apartment with a small balcony and beautiful floors, but all facing north. A long entrance corridor, at first sight a dark and wasted space, became the first of the places to confront: to return all the windows to the visible space of the house, allowing light to reconquer this small private world.

The first gesture shortened the corridor, removing the wall that separated it from the living room and freeing the solidity of a column cast on site. The light reflecting off the rough concrete surface approaches the entrance. Here a foyer in a fresh green colour hides a shoe rack and very useful cabinets and helps to divide the space into a sequence of small rooms.

Once this passage has been overcome, we get our first view of the most open space of the home, as it begins to narrate its ambiguous story, between open space and a sequence of rooms. The distribution space, which previously ran tightly between the small service spaces with windows and the blank border wall, disappears definitively in a sequence of rooms each with its own window to the world.

The heart of the home, with its black tile floor restored to its original luster, is defined by a few but very necessary volumes.

The first, a large corner French door, illuminates the most convivial space in the house.

A free-standing kitchen in blue metal, with a stainless-steel worktop, together with white ceramic tiles with staggered layout, help build the backdrop for the convivial domestic space.

On the perimeter on the opposite side of the pantry, a storage unit plays at making the wall: it takes on its colour and proportions but deviates from this by becoming a volume, suspended on an arabesque marble step.

The pantry is a compact volume that hides the cleaning products, laundry and untidiness, behind a coloured curtain and an arched doorway.

The desire to bring as much natural light as possible into the liveliest parts of the house was the basis for the radical relocation of the service spaces.

The central volume, which previously contained the kitchen and bathroom, is moved to the darkest part of the house. Creating the new blind bathroom frees up the windows for other uses. For technical reasons, the floor of the new bathroom and hallway is raised by one step with respect to the existing floor level, becoming a habitable platform. In this space, which would be a passageway, and further proportioned by a lowered ceiling, there is a bright London style bar counter, for morning breakfasts or for working from home.

The materiality of the existing floors, so rich and traditionally decorative, is balanced by the use of a clear monochromatic resin, a cold grey that captures and reflects the light throughout the house.

A natural oak worktop, under the double window, provides a place of direct contact with the outside world, with the private street below, the Milanese sky and the green wisteria plant that emerges from the nearby buildings.

Set back from the windows, the bathroom is lit by two portholes that pierce the wall just above eye level.

White 10x10 square tiles with earthy red grout cover the bathroom. The wall-hung vanity unit is lacquered in a deep blue, topped with an arabesque marble countertop, and complemented by large white handles. This strongly material composition acts as a counterpoint to the geometric texture of the wall coverings.

Through a romantic arched doorway, the master bedroom suite is discovered set upon a bright red tiled carpet; a meticulous composition that preserves what remains of a typical Milanese domestic interior of the time. Well lit by the double glass doors of the small balcony, the master bedroom, separated from the rest of the house, offers a quiet and private place to rest.

The large walk-in closet, made of oak and covered with a rattan weaving (which lets the light filter in, gifting both light and privacy), builds a further volume within the space. A handrail helps to contain a small living space above the walk-in wardrobe, accessible by a steel staircase on one side – a space for yoga and relaxation.

A second ribbed glass door illuminates and connects the changing room of the wardrobe directly with the large shower in the bathroom. The circularity of the paths multiplies the possibilities of use, movement and interaction between straightforward material surfaces, the people who live with them and the light that touches them.

CREDITS

Client: Private
Typology: Apartment
Place: Milan, Italy
Year: 2022.10
Sqm: 65
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Umberto Maj, Cesare Galligani, Andrea del Pedro Pera, Philip Kolevsohn, Viviana Ramires, Bianca Magi, Konstantinos Ballis
Photography: Francesco Carredda
General contractor: Relazioni Edili
Carpenter (bespoke furniture): Donghi Arredi
Windows: Fratelli Bergamaschi
Doors: Nuova Porte Prandi
Kitchen: Very Simple Kitchen
Steelwork: Projet Metal

PUBLICATIONS


Living Corriere: Article
Archello: Article

A material wonderland

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“Addio casa!” In a 1960s building, built as well as it once was, someone has left us this message that feels a lot like a recommendation. The house in question is the past and future of true friends and a little photographer.

It is as if the occasion wanted a new story to be written in this special place, and that everything ought to be new: colour, matter and space. Like that of a new and unknown land, to be discovered and inhabited. Here, more than ever, many craftsmen have helped us. For this reason each surface tells the variety of matter and its vital encounter with the hand of man.

Non-trivial space, of rooms that open other rooms. For a more mysterious and lively domestic life than that of Existenzminimum fiction.
The assassination of the corridor leaves the field free to the forgotten spaces of the vestibule, the writing nook, the dressing room, the boudoir, the bathroom, the kursaal, the playroom, the alcove, the conservatory, the laundry, the galley, the bar.
The inhabitants of this house can hide in the intimacy of these rooms; or choose, when the time is ripe, to meet in the spacious common "piazza" of the living room.

The large space for convivial activities reflects the light of three large windows; left without curtains, like those of northern cities.
The backdrop of this space is dominated by the large island with five gas burners, the real hearth of the house. Its colours were decided seventy years ago by a famous Bolognese bottle painter. This space wants to remain ambiguous, in order to accommodate more formal events when necessary. Is it really a kitchen? Or is it the extension of the living room? Thus a long sideboard, the colour of a deep red wine, hides the many tools of the gastronomic art; while a long sand-colored boiserie, in addition to containing the basic needs of the kitchen, can hide the sink, transforming the space into a ballroom.

More than once, returning to this house, we found ourselves caressing its surfaces, in a distracted and instinctive gesture. Hand on matter. Enlightened, we realized that matter has become a medium, one between our hand, the one that uses it, and the hand of whoever gave it shape. Thus, the embossed lacquers resound like velvet when touched by the hand and speak to us of the moment in which sand and colour were combined.
The veining of the elm that covers the kitchen reminds us of the sensitive choice of logs combined, with the fresh and smooth surface of the concrete surfaces, an expression of the patient movement of those who smoothed them.

These worktops are exceptional artefacts: unique fusions of black cement embellished with a Verona red, the result of a passionate refinement artform, which has seen many samples which later ended up in the attic, a physical yet unforgotten 'archive of process'.

At the other end of the "piazza", in juxtaposition, a more intimate environment devoted to music and acts of contemplation. Part bow window and part winter garden, this place is characterized by the presence of a small wooden alcove whose deep seat invites a lazy reader. The blown glass lantern and the velvet complete the unconscious design of a railway landscape where, aided by your imagination, you could feel yourself on a journey. The intimacy of this world is signaled by the change of floor which, in scented wood, approaches the minerality of the most important floor of the house.

The design of the highly precious flooring is given the task of defining the boundaries of the most social space in the house. For this reason, from the beginning, we hoped it could be special. While our hand sought to trace an original sign in the world of shapes, the house in itself revealed a long-hidden secret. The decommissioning of a worn-out parquet revealed before our eyes a vibrant composition: the structure of the joists "sown" by the hand of a forgotten craftsman designed a mesmerizing texture. Instinctive and unconscious beauty.

The design of the new terrazzo floor and thassos tiles is uncertain and "a little wrong", and is meant to be an ode to that forgotten hand.

In a simple yet bold gesture, we make a hero of a single step. A simple insertion, like the single lost piece of a puzzle containing 1000s, defines a transitionary experience. In contrast to the delicate white paving that flows beneath, the warm pigmented stair creates a space of spontaneous on-the-go conversation, or even a small seat for a moments pause.

This threshold appears to hold hands, gently, delicately, with a warm and cosy room within the greater room; not dissimilar to that of the studio nook for a future photographer. Perched lightly above the living space, tracing the outline of an old bathroom window that once was, a new framed view immerges, creating a private writing desk and drinks bar.

The passage between the more social areas of the house and the more intimate ones is accompanied by the sensitive experience of the scent of wood. It takes place through a mysterious room, covered in a boiserie: the panels hide and disclose other rooms - some of services such as galley and laundry, others a bit special (like the bar) dedicated to the pleasure of guests.

Behind one of these secret doors, sits a compact guest washroom, bathed in a vibrating wash of zellige tiles; a lively patchwork of individually handcrafted tiles immerges, each one different from the other. A custom-made concrete wash basin stands proud, it’s presence like a stone monolith paying tribute to a moment in history, while from above, a high-level window brings in soft natural light.

Through another openable panel, access to the matrimonial suite is granted. Continuing its warm timber finish, light beams into the compact walk-in wardrobe, through a large opening with a bench at its base.

Separating the walk-in wardrobe from the main bedroom, yet another precious element in pigmented concrete sits atop a warm timber floor. This inserted element, also taking on the function of a small seat, spills ever so slightly into the bedroom, inviting the arrival of its guests.

In this compact and private world, composed of 3 rooms in 1, the en-suite bathroom is thought to take on the function of a private spa. For the sake of simplicity, two bold contrasting colours are used in two main forms. The walls, shower and large bath for two are wrapped in black zellige tiles, reflecting a shimmering light, both natural and artificial, depending on the time of day. A custom wash basin in white concrete, formed at the hands of an experienced artisan, rests lightly on the dark grounded bath volume. A sense of peace, silence and tranquility can be felt, in a space of real purity.

In an opposing world, while still a space of purity and self-care, an exotic and vibrant green zellige tile pays reference to those great façade designers of the 60s; material raincoats which still hold strong against a rapidly changing urban skyline.

CREDITS

Client: Private
Typology: Apartment
Place: Milan, Italy
Year: 2022.12
Sqm: 153
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Umberto Maj, Cesare Galligani, Andrea del Pedro Pera, Edoardo Allocchio, Matteo Negri, Francesca Luci
Photography: Alberto Strada
General contractor: Relazioni Edili
Carpenter (bespoke furniture): Workshop Moor
Windows: Fratelli Bergamaschi
Doors: Nuova Porte Prandi
Steelwork: Projet Metal
Concrete Work: Giambattista Caldara
Zellige tiles: Mosaic Factory

House of Stone & Water

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“Gather round, fishes, those of you to the right still in the River Douro and those of you to the left in the River Duero, come closer all of you and advise me which language you speak when you cross the watery frontiers beneath (…)”

Josè Saramago, Journey to Portugal

Nestled in the Scottish Borders countryside in the southern Scotland, House of Stone and Water aims to build a place where the boundaries between inside and outside, between natural and artificial, are bound to blend with time.

In this context, known for its vegetation and breathtaking surroundings, the project makes use of the local flora to shape its direct landscape.

The composition of the house is made up of five blocks, each containing different functions and expressing varied levels of privacy. The blocks slip and slide along one another to create an arrangement which frames a small patio courtyard and swimming pool. Movement within the house parallels winding water in a rocky brook.

The fenestration allows for a high level of permeability and intertwines daily activities with the outside, thus connecting all functions in a flow of open and closed spaces. The void between the solid volumes becomes the mediator of daily life functions.

The water element of the house sits at the center of the composition and can be seen from the three blocks containing the entertainment functions. A shaded portico allows for a covered outdoor area and acts as a floating link between the main house and the detached sauna and change room.

In a smaller scale, the design of the facade reflects the communicative, open aspect of the house. The windows integrate inhabitable surfaces in its geometry, creating a new degree of contact to the outside landscape. The transparent elements of the building are designed not only to frame the landscape, but are also volumetrically composed to create significant yet inhabitable thresholds between the cosy interior and the vast countryside.

The brick, the mortar joints and the external base in polished slate-coloured concrete together make up a monochromatic system of monolithic blocks in composition in the landscape.

CREDITS

Client: Private 
Typology: Countryside house
Place: Scottish Borders, UK
Year: 2022
Sqm: 248
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Philip Kolevsohn, Letizia Ceriani, Konstantinos Ballis, Yolanda Guastaferro, Valentina Pastori, Matteo Previato
Photography: Alberto Strada

Concrete Specialist: Giambattista Caldara

Kintsugi Apartment

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“Organisms in nature have survived and thrived for billions of years because they have one powerful trait at their disposal – they are adaptive”

Rafe Sagarin

The house was tired, the light no longer illuminated it as well as before, the spaces seemed to tighten more and more, especially after the arrival of the two young children. Those long corridors in which the flow of light became a challenge, made the tiny rooms even smaller.

The project tries to adapt to the family, with small, timely, gentle changes.

Little changes are able to transform the apartment in an open, functional, full of light space.

The demolition of the walls facing the corridors; the re-appropriation of the spaces once lost; the obtaining of an extra room by moving the kitchen into the new regained environment at the heart of the home; the slight enlargement of the bathroom to accommodate two sinks and laundry area.

The atmosphere of the house as it was, was characterized by the original textures of the floors.

Where possible, the old original milanese marble textures, and stones, have been kept.

The new spatial distribution leaves the traces in the pavement exposed, where the dividing walls used to be.

The project does not erase those signs, but accepts them for what they are; now combinations of different materials coexist for what they are, and what they were.

The resins of the bathroom and of the children's room contrast the rich design of the existing floors with smooth surfaces, where the soft colour reflects the light in shimmering shades.

The attention to detail and the new elements introduced try to remove the unnecessary overdesign and disappear in the general array of spaces.

The small porthole windows introduced have a circular shape as do the light fittings; the doors, if integrated with the walls, take their colours and proportions, reaching the ceiling.

CREDITS

Client: Private
Typology: Apartment
Place: Milan, Italy
Year: 2022.03
Sqm: 70
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Cesare Galliani, Umberto Maj, Andrea Del Pedro Pera, Samantha Furlotti, Giulia Barilli, Philip Kolevsohn
Photography: Francesco Carredda
General contractor: Relazioni Edili
Carpenter: L’Interno di Enrico Ornaghi
Resin: Parquet Italia s.a.s.
Windows and Doors: Fratelli Bergamaschi
Steelwork & Mirrors: Projet Metal

Corstorphine House – House of the sleeping fox

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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

Credits

Client: Private
Typology: Urban House
Place: Edinburgh, Scotland
Year: 2021.08
Sqm: 184
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

Tuscan Jealousy

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“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."

Gelosia
"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.

Credits

Client: Private
Typology: Countryside House
Place: Pistoia, Italy
Year: 2021.07
Sqm: 390
Architectural Design: ATOMAA, with Michael Schmidt
Design Team: Paolo Restelli, Danilo Monzani, Daniela Serini, Mauro Atzeni, Murat Bilen
Photography: ATOMAA Archive
Model photography: Alberto Strada
General contractor: Silvano Ferretti Srl
Structural consultant: Domus Ingegneria (Ingegneri Associati Ducci Monti)

House Cinsc – A retreat among the peaks

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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.

UPON ENTERING

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.

CREDITS

Client: Private
Typology: Alpine House
Place: Varzo, Italy
Year: 2020.10
Sqm: 142
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

A Home for Readers

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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.

CREDITS

Client: Private
Typology: Apartment
Place: Milan, Italy
Year: 2020.01
Sqm: 95
Architectural Design: ATOMAA
Design Team: Samantha Furlotti, Francesca Luci, Viviana Ramires
Photography: Alberto Strada
General contractor: EDILBM GROUP SRL
Carpenter: Workshop Moor

Upon Inhabiting: Link