The project for WOOD COURT RESTAURANT | Fabbrica di Pedavena Cesate, for which INS Ilaria Nava Studio was selected as architectural designer in 2015, represents a regeneration vehicle based on the desire to create a leisure location in a woodland of considerable natural importance in terms of both flora and fauna: the Groane Regional Park, North of Milan.
The project sets the new building in the most remote part of a 6,700m2 site surrounded by splendid woods and heathland, following the demolition of a pre-existing obsolete building. The construction of a contemporary architecture in an environmentally protected setting represents an important example of integration between nature and the built environment: nature as creator and regenerator becomes the semantic cornerstone of the project, indicating a new relationship of reciprocal respect between architecture, man and wood.
The architectural space is made up of unexpected diagonals that forcefully split the shell, opening its most intimate part – a central concave space exposed to the south – to nature, with the wood insinuating itself into the building. And the building, symbiotically, becomes an enveloping form that protects nature.
Folds and deformations that break up the orthogonal order create expansive prospects that draw the visitor’s eye to connect with nature and discern its profound involvement with the building, and the wooden deck becomes the stage for oaks and birch trees.
These external spaces enhance the relationship between man and the power of nature thanks to the design of the specially devised wooden overhangs, a roofing system organised in intersecting planes, which is also a characteristic element of the restaurant interior, like planes that organically glide out towards the heathland.
The generous use of wood in the courtyard, with the red cedar covering and the Ipè wood decking, creates a visual, spacial and material connection with the woodland. The principal facade, with a western exposure/orientation and parallel to the road, is characterised by a set of larch vertical panels that at night generate a seductive pattern of light and shade. These panels, in addition to protecting the internal space from glare, at dusk, provide an acoustic and visual barrier in relation to the road.
From a functional and distributive point of view the restaurant is divided into two blocks: the restaurant-bar block, an open space articulated in three branches so as to allow separate management of the three areas; the service block, located to the north and east, containing the toilets, staff changing rooms, washing areas and kitchen, refrigerators and store room.
The challenging structural project is one of the valuable elements of the building: the pitched roof is devised as a combination of intersecting planes with 20 metre spans. This solution exploits the internal spaces to realize a single open space and to create long glass facades beneath the extensive overhang of the courtyard. The structure is realized with one system of monolithic reinforced concrete slabs and reticular steel joists that rest on invisible columns and walls in reinforced concrete.
Sustainability, energy efficiency and wellbeing are at the very core of the project. Heating and cooling are generated by a geothermal system that uses groundwater to drive a reverse heat pump. The building incorporates a full air conditioning system with exposed ducts combined with underfloor panels adjacent to the façade to reduce the radiative effect of the external glazing in order to ensure optimum comfort conditions to clients and staff. The roof has an integrated set of photovoltaic panels that supplies renewable energy to partially cover the energy consumption of the restaurant.
The glazing in the external courtyard is made up of large fixed and sliding doors that open to create 9 metres of uninterrupted light bringing together the inside and the outside in a unique extraordinary sensory space.
The design vision thus finds synthesis in the external courtyard, that welcomes visitors between wooden surfaces, inclined spaces, the rustle of leaves and evening dew: it is here where the complete symbiosis between architecture, man and nature is realized.
Ilaria Nava, architect, born in 1978. Assistant Professor of Urban Design at the Faculty of Architecture of the Polytechnic of Milan, Urban Planning Assessor, Lecturer at universities and conferences, contributor to sectoral books and magazines.
Member of the Italian Chamber of Architects of Varese, was a member of the UK Register of Architects and of the Chamber of Architects of Pemba (Mozambique).
In 2005 she founded INS Ilaria Nava Studio with which she develops projects in diverse sectors and on varying scales, from urban planning to architecture and interior design in Italy and Africa, in particular in Ghana and Mozambique.
INS explores and works at all scales and in every field connected to the growth of cities and the creation of architectural spaces through the pursuit of beauty alongside social and political dialogue, and enhancing the connection between places and people, architecture and nature.