At this point any project in a non-urban setting has to loudly proclaim its harmonious insertion in the landscape. The means used to this end – more or less always the same – are mainly two in number: panoramic windows and local materials. The Sartfell residence is no exception, and chooses the simplest of options: large windows gaping towards the landscape, and a rustic technology rooted in the location, that of dry masonry. The difference, with respect to consolidated practices, is that both themes are taken to great depth, developing all their potential and achieving effects of great originality by starting with clear, accurate premises.
The window, for example, is an ironic take on a key concept of modern architecture: no one knew how to invent novelty like Le Corbusier, that peerless producers of slogans, clichés and key terms, and one of his best and most popular ideas was the long horizontal window, whose qualities and advantages he praised as opposed to the traditional vertical opening. While the vertical window implies a static, standstill view of the outside, the ribbon window allows the gaze to wander, allowing for the movement of the body in space, offering a continuous strip of landscape.
The English architecture firm helmed by Will Foster e Greg Lomas interprets this idea in a version that effectively brings out the characteristics of material, space and comfort of the building. The project seeks and finds the precise definition of the specific features of each space, and the most appropriate expression of the relationships and connections between the various parts. The main space is on the piano nobile, at the second level, and is equally divided between the living area and the library. Split into two distinct but not separate wings by the bending of the volume, the living room offers continuity thanks to the horizontal window and the perimeter wall, in rough stone on the outside, becoming a sliding concrete margin on the inside, accompanied by the horizontal lines of the imprints of the formwork.
The kitchen is placed to correspond with the ribbon window that continues around the corner, with fixtures placed against the wall and a large free surface, at the center, to contain the sink and to serve as a worktop and dining table. The living room is on the other side, beyond the bend, and is equally minimalist. Here too there is a single element placed at the center: an impressive black fireplace that defines the qualities and uses of the space. Otherwise, a simple coffee table, two different armchairs with their backs to the ribbon window, and a small vertical chest of drawers will suffice. The furnishings are joined by spartan seating created in the deep compartment of the lateral window, in a reference to the typical settee situated inside a bow window in English homes.
While the ribbon window underscores the horizontal extension, the space of the library emphasizes a vertical axis, light and luminous, that starts from the lower level and continues to the living area, culminating finally in a large skylight. With a triangular form, the library is equipped with two bookcases in steel sheet with a dark etched finish, bolted onto the concrete wall, one per level. The system of ramps and gangways has been made with perforated sheet metal and slender steel structures, allowing both the light and the gaze to enter, for perception of the vertical thrust and luminosity of the space.
The landscape and the context provide the inspiration for the materials, the light, the visual impact of the building, the indoor-outdoor relations, and also guide the choices of methods to achieve a high level of environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. Over time the stone wall will be colonized by moss and small plants, and the roof garden already contains grasses and wild flowers, while energy is supplied by the waters of the nearby lake, composing and a windmill. A special focus has to do with the surrounding land, which will be taken back to its original state by planting native trees, recreating the wild meadow and the peat bogs that host rare species of orchids.
Project Foster Lomas - Photos Edmund Sumner