Built with trees felled by the Vaia storm, the Case del Prato – Zirmerhof in South Tyrol become a holistic message of art, architecture and design in a project by AMDL CIRCLE and Michele De Lucchi

Nothing is constant, everything is subject to transformation. This was already explained by Heraclitus, the Greek Pre-Socratic philosopher, with the famous phrase panta rhei (everything flows), and later in scientific terms by the French chemist Lavoisier in the 1700s. Michele De Lucchi, with AMDL CIRCLE, has created and built the ‘Case del Prato’ (Meadow Houses), two small works of architecture that expand the living spaces of Hotel Zirmerhof at Redagno di Sopra, in the southern part of Alto Adige, using wood from trees felled by the Vaia storm, which in 2018, in just one night, struck 8.7 million cubic meters of trees, including the marvelous surrounding woods.


Michele De Lucchi
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AMDL Circle is the centre of a like-minded group of explorers. With each and every new project, we look to grow our circle to include: artists, anthropologists, humanists, psychologists and futurologists and anyone contributing to evolve our projects. Guided by Michele De Lucchi with Angelo Micheli we focus on the following areas: commercial, residential and cultural spaces, design, hospitality, infrastructure, graphic design, workplaces, urban planning. Our expertize in the realization of visionary projects is supported by our wonderful clients from all over the world.

“The project has become a way to interpret and amplify the message of Vaia and all the other phenomena caused by global warming, which show us that nature is reacting to human actions that have nothing natural about them,” De Lucchi says. But it has also become a way to communicate the potential of wood, the architect’s favorite material. “Wood is a truly beautiful, living material to be explored, because it has a thousand secrets,” he explains. “It can alter itself, changing its look, transforming, but it always has a second life, even after the tree has been felled, cut, crafted, reconstituted.”

In this case, De Lucchi has chosen wood together with the owners of the Zirmerhof, whom he met as a guest in their hotel, with friends, in 2005-06, the beginning of a process of dialogue, ideas and proposals that had already opened up unexpected relationships, many years before the ruinous arrival of Vaia. The wood of salvaged spruce trees has been used to build beams and load-bearing walls of the six rooms that form the two Meadow Houses, while recovered larch wood has been used for formwork, cladding, floors and internal partitions. Linking back to an age-old construction technique that is still in use, larch shingles have been used for the two roofs, giving a soft, rounded form to the houses.

The first one is circular, with two suites on different levels; the second is linear, composed of four apartments, again on two levels, and a central full-height convivial space. The two houses have elements in common, such as the panoramic terraces on the upper level, and the arches of the continuous portico at the ground floor. In the project, the theme of sustainability is addressed by using zero-km materials connected to a specific territory and local skills and resources. The architect Robert Veneri has guided a team of professionals and artisans selected from those with extensive experience in the zone.

“This was the biggest satisfaction, because when the work was done they were very proud of the results: this was the first signal that the idea was working,” De Lucchi recalls. “The freedom of lines and geometric forms offered by the use of shingles is fascinating, especially in relation to their chromatic metamorphosis over time. It is said that the shingle changes over the years, taking on a silvery gray tone according to the quantity of light it receives from the full moon on its damp surface. It is destined to last a long time because it is formed by three very light layers, simply ripped off the log, without cutting, and thus impermeable to rainwater, which slides off without entering the wood fiber.”

The freedom of lines and geometric forms offered by the use of shingles is fascinating, especially in relation to their chromatic metamorphosis over time. It is said that the shingle changes over the years, taking on a silvery gray tone according to the quantity of light it receives from the full moon on its damp surface."

The overall impression is one of sinuous volumes covered by larch shingles, like two architectural sculptures that open up new horizons. They stand on a sloping meadow, in front of the large historic structure of the hotel, with views of the forested landscape of the Valle dell’Adige, surrounded by the peaks of the Dolomites, as if they were two more little hills, framed by their casements and causing no disturbance for the eyes or the mind. They form the borders of an ideal clearing to welcome guests, taking the place of the old eyesore of a parking lot, which has been repositioned in a secluded lateral zone.

“I liked the idea of a settlement at 1600 meters, immersed in silence and beauty, the aromas and colors of nature,” De Lucchi says. “The Zirmerhof is an inspirational place, where you go above all to share an experience that makes you feel good, far from the frenzy of the city. In fact, the Padiglione Zero and the Expo Center for Expo Milano 2015 were designed right here, where there are many different tables, because around a table everything happens, you can eat, talk, make drawings; the table is a spontaneous center, on various scales, from the piazza to the small table in front of a stove,” he concludes.

“I liked the idea of a settlement at 1600 meters, immersed in silence and beauty, the aromas and colors of nature,” De Lucchi says. “The Zirmerhof is an inspirational place, where you go above all to share an experience that makes you feel good, far from the frenzy of the city. In fact, the Padiglione Zero and the Expo Center for Expo Milano 2015 were designed right here, where there are many different tables, because around a table everything happens, you can eat, talk, make drawings; the table is a spontaneous center, on various scales, from the piazza to the small table in front of a stove,” he concludes.

Inside the Case del Prato, the revitalizing effect of the site becomes even stronger. Every detail – small and large objects, including beds, upholstered furnishings, wardrobes, lamps, carpets, fabrics – has been designed for the occasion, to establish relations with the history and sensibilities of the place, in harmony with stone pine, red spruce, larch and walnut, selected to set the individual tone of each room, where the necessary technology exists, but is built-in, invisible.

“The design of the interiors has become a signature installation that completes the architectural vision,” Pico De Lucchi explains, general director of Produzione Privata, the experimental laboratory of Michele De Lucchi founded in 1990, which has now become a true brand with about 70 products in its catalogue, all made in keeping with original values of craftsmanship, and material of natural source. These products are popular around the world, from Japan to Australia. “For the Zirmerhof we have prototyped, engineered and self-produced 17 unique objects with 127 variants and 14 different carpets, all in six months, of which three were during the Covid lockdown,” he continues.

The project has become a way to interpret and amplify the message of Vaia and all the other phenomena caused by global warming, which show us that nature is reacting to human actions that have nothing natural about them."

“We were able to do this precisely because of the holistic approach of the research of AMDL CIRCLE. Across architecture, interiors and design, we form a versatile working group, in a context of constant evolution and collaboration. In this sense, with respect to the early years, Produzione Privata has changed its perspective: starting with a specific design opportunity, we first study the situation, and then we create the object, which can later be adapted for other contexts. This approach allows us to create small open stages, where we often intervene with graphics and storytelling, to make the objects and the interiors grow together with the architecture. We translate this approach in an artistic way, as well, as in the recent exhibition ‘1+1+1/2020’ at Assab One in Milan, where we created an installation that investigates relationships between peoples, design and architecture, made with the carpets produced by Jaipur Rugs and Jaipur Rugs Foundation, the largest network of female and male artisans in India, which supports 40,000 makers of carpets scattered in 600 villages. This is our way of being contemporary.

In the Case del Prato, there is a parchment lamp in the form of a candle and a droplet, which we designed for the bedside tables. Many custom pieces were created in untreated domestic walnut, featuring a wand-shaped part typical of local furnishings. The designs are conceived to bring a tone of modernity in relation to the traditional items already existing at the site. Our objects, however, have been crafted in the plains and taken to the mountains; made by hand, by artisans who have been working with Michele ever since the Memphis days.”

Project by AMDL Circle and Michele De Lucchi - Coordination and supervision Robert Veneri
Photos Max Rommel

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