The Mulberry Refuge is a small agricultural building converted into a functional barn / storage but also an intimate space, an unusual meeting place

The well-being linked to the relationship with nature? Certainly, but not only in a bucolic key, understood as a (vague) rural idyll. Well-being is also linked to (hard) work in nature, that of the fields. To remind us of this is a simple project - whispered - that reconciles functionality and intimacy, even conviviality. One made of daily and domestic gestures, as unadorned as authentic. Silent.

We are in high Brianza, among the mulberry fields at the foot of the Montevecchia hills, where the young studio a25architetti, founded by the brothers Francesco and Paolo Manzoni, has converted a small farm building into an unexpected space, for its owner, Mr. Benvenuto, but not only: hospitality finds a home here. The name, yes that is poetic, is called Rifugio del Gelso (The Mulberry Refuge).

Why is it called The Mulberry Refuge

Since the early 1900, this territory has been characterized by the production of silk and the mulberry farming, whose foliage was used as food for silkworms. Such cultivation was widespread in the farms and all around the hilly landscape.

Nowadays, the land and the terraces are used for other activities such as hay meadows, pasture and corn crops and there are only a few mulberry trees left, one of which is right in front of the Refuge.

Shed and barn with hidden qualities

In the last fifty years the building has been used as a tool shed and barn and adapted according to the needs of the time, often with poor-quality materials. Yet under the layer of time, some hidden qualities have emerged while restructuring.

The renovation project

Once the building was cleaned of all these materials, it could finally show its very simple structure made of rough cement. It was then cleaned in the lower part, while in the upper part a new wall with cement bricks was made to replace the old wall, made with waste materials.

The project responds to the owner's need to have a storage area/barn on the upper floor and a more convivial space, as well as shelter for tools, on the ground floor with direct access to the path in front.

Mr. Benvenuto, between private and meeting spaces

It is here that the owner, a Garelli worker born in 1940, spends most of his time. After a life spent working, he has now made this place his life, never losing a chance to chat with passers-by, and making the refuge an unusual meeting place.

A monastic refuge that looks like a bucolic painting

Entering the new agricultural building what reveals itself is an atypical refuge, furnished in an essential but welcoming way, monastic but extremely well-kept, almost painted. The effect is that of a painting: a sober wooden table with chairs around it and a single window to frame the surrounding landscape. An intimate but convivial, almost secret place. A spartan and quiet space where you can retreat to read a book.

The brick walls arranged like a grid like old barns

On the upper floor, instead, the space is used as a deposit for agricultural equipment. If once the building was filled with waste materials, now cement bricks are used. The project reinterprets in a contemporary way the traditional walls used in the old farmhouses and barns.

Nowadays the Refuge is used as a tool shelter and as a deposit for small dried bales of hay: that's why a perforated or almost completely open wall face, which was normally suitable for hay drying, was not necessary.

Raw materials and concrete bricks

The materials are left raw, simple and authentic, as was the existing portion on the ground floor. Cement bricks for the upper part, fir wood for the roof, brick tiles and raw sheet metal for the channels and downpipes.

Behind the door a (simple) emotional bond

The existing sheet metal door has been painted brass-colored, to emphasize the precious value of this little refuge for Mr. Benvenuto. And to indicate that behind that door there is a emotional bond, a simple (therefore) authentic story.