One hundred percent cement, recyclable and recoverable. What is special about this house, close to the city of Bergamo, is its materialization as a monolith of rough concrete, characterized by a brutalist charm, which favors a single line design and the angularity of a rough de constructivist geometry, devoid of finishes. Looking at its austere, cold and rigorous architecture, you might think you are in Japan but no, it is about the Italian Padano landscape where a precise reduction was made in every design choice.
What is the reason for this radical approach? “We wanted to stimulate new points of view and the perception of an intervention carried out in the pure static-constructive act”, explain Matteo Casari and Valentina Giovanzani (since 2007 from Matteo Casari Architetti Studio, based in Verdellino, Bergamo). Were you inspired by the structural research on architectural figure archetype and the intersections according to different orthogonal directions conceived by the Milanese painter and stage designer Rodolfo Aricò? Or maybe by the theme of shaped forms starting from an ideal box treated with surgical precision and geometric abstraction by the American artist Donald Judd? “Here, these are both important references for our work. We think there is a possibility of creating a top quality living space even in heterogeneous territories that are traditionally not open to experimentation”, the designers explain.
In other words, you can operate locally and look far ahead. Of course, the fact of having made a huge box in natural concrete, very fragmented on the stylistic level, (only the oxide coloring, a light additive, makes the gray patina warmer), seeking the maximum expressive purity within a dense residential, it meant supporting a strong breakage impact from rural connotations.
“We were interested in redefining the relationship with the place and reactivating the territory potential by challenging the concept of proximity. We intervened on a small lot of about 400 square meters. The new geometric shape is the result of the demolition and reconstruction of an existing building, and it’s an idea born from the need of young customers to have an open space, protected from prying eyes. Two walls exposed face, in reinforced concrete and placed five meters from each other, at the same distance that separates the house from the neighboring borders, define the building structure and contain all the living spaces”.
With a distinction: the south direction wall, facing the access road, is shaped to let light go in, leaving however a neutral blinder corner, the opposite wall instead retains the entire rectangular profile and cuts out an articulated geometrical hole inside. This let the wall on the North expand into a convex volume that includes the staircase to be housed indoors. The insulating lining of the internal concrete surfaces made it possible to plastically cover the stairwell with a structure covered by a grounded PVC membrane.
The connecting surfaces between the two walls then gave rise to the large windows, determining their orientation in a diagonal direction. A designer’s mission accomplished. Furthermore, it is fascinating to note how the articulation of the closed part of the house, about 130 square meters, spread over two levels – the living area on the first and the sleeping area on the second – has the same austere aesthetics. It’s a precise use of materials in terms of comfort and functionality.
Indoors, the rough concrete leaves the scene to light plasterboard walls painted in gray enamel characterized by a Nordic shade close to that of the floor, a vibrant tone between blue and gray of linoleum in natural rubber fiber. The free plan, allowed by the framework of the house, then gives the maximum spatial fluidity and ample flexibility of the different functional islands, articulated with custom-made furnishings: comfortable ultra-soft upholstered furniture and selected pieces of Italian design.
No element is leaning against the walls, the closets nest in residual portions, and a series of skylights illuminates the central areas at the last level. A system of linear LED systems, known as “industrial light batteries", placed in the same position on all three levels, creates tactile and intense light-dark textures in the environments. Their orderly progression is clearly perceptible in the evening even from the inner garden, when the large windows façade in gray aluminum exhibits all the structural potential of reinforced concrete.
The two cement “blades”, reaching the height of the foundations, highlight the pool cavity: a further echo of modernism and Japanese minimalism that animates this architecture to Donald Judd s’ style.
Project Matteo Casari Architetti - Photos Andrea Martiradonna