In its archetypal, timeless form – that of a long low volume, enclosed by a pitched roof and resting on a meadow with an infinite view of cultivated fields in the hills near Piacenza of Val Tidone – this house, designed and built by the Dutch architect Geert Koster (based in Milan since 1985), responds to very contemporary requirements of sustainability. This is done through the choice of materials and technological solutions that have important, not only aesthetic meanings, to achieve the best thermal wellbeing and maximum energy savings in all seasons.
The building, which has a single level, for an area of 280 square meters, is made with double perforated brick masonry with internal insulation. Oriented towards the south, it extends in length for about 30 meters, optimizing exposure to sunlight and allowing it to penetrate the interiors. The exterior is in natural thermo-aged larch. The excellent insulating properties of this material are enhanced by the use of casements in painted lamellar spruce, in a coplanar arrangement to create the effect of vanishing when closed, while a skin of innovative Ondapress panels made with natural-base materials covers the wooden structure of the double-pitched roof.
With respect to traditional farmhouses in the zone made with stones gathered when plowing fields and exposed brick, this is an atypical work of architecture. The same is true of the garden, entrusted to the novel arrangement of trees and flowers that are only apparently spontaneous and wild, curated by the landscape architect Antonio Perazzi. “In effect, like the plants which age and adapt across the seasons, the vernacular form of the architecture, which reflects a contemporary interpretation of the typical barns of agricultural zones, will take on a silvery gray tone, blending into the mineral olive green of the surroundings and the hues of the carpet of gravel punctuated by patches of cement bordering the pathways all the way to the belvedere terrace, conceived as an open-air box window for relaxation immersed in the natural setting,” says Geert Koster.
The pursuit of this symbiosis between nature and construction was already part of the project brief. After having found a parcel of land in an ideal position for the creation of a new house, the owner of this buen retiro, an entrepreneur based in Milan, expressed her desires clearly to Koster: she wanted everything to foster calm and relieve urban stress, in a slow dimension even if the place was only used on weekends, conveying the possibility of life in the country as a total, real, authentic sensorial experience, but without rustic accents. “In this sense, another interesting idea was that of uniform flooring in batch-dyed cement, with quartz polishing on the surface, to create a very pleasant sensation under bare feet,” Koster explains.
This choice also worked perfectly with the geothermal heating and cooling system using radiant panels, on a horizontal plane and in the vertical sequence of large glass doors that frame the views of the landscape like paintings, capturing light from the south. The openings of the walls enhance the effect of seamless fluidity in the interiors, all interconnected lengthwise by an axis that reconfigures and dynamically shapes the layout: on one side, to the south, the large united living-dining-kitchen zone, open to relations with the raised belvedere terrace and with the staircase leading to the wine cellar; on the other, with western exposure, the bedroom zone has been organized, with four bedrooms and bathrooms, sharing the echoes of luminous reflections drawn inward, at times through well-placed glass portions in the upper cladding of the internal walls, rigorously in white lime plaster.
The furnishings and objects carefully selected by the owner, an art collector and globetrotter, the design lamps and wooden furniture with a Nordic, brutalist look, grant the neutral enclosure a warm, relaxing atmosphere. This is perceptible above all when seated around the big workshop table with high-backed chairs, the convivial core of the space that gravitates around the fireplace, to share with many friends and guests.
Project Geert Koster/Studio Koster / Milan - Photos Andrea Martiradonna