Atelier Trepp: when contemporary architecture imitates nature
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Atelier Trepp: when contemporary architecture imitates nature

Mino Caggiula Architects

Atelier Trepp: when contemporary architecture imitates nature
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With the studio for artist Alice Trepp, Mino Caggiula Architects has re-designed the forms of contemporary architecture, taking its cue from the natural landscapes of the Italian-Swiss canton of Ticino.This artist’s home-cum-studio is nestled in its natural setting, the sinuous forms enhanced by an alternation of solids and voids: unrendered reinforced concrete walls and extensive glazed lights. Very different from the vernacular architecture of the area, the new building nonetheless slips unobtrusively into its site, a synergy achieved between nature and architecture that required a solid entente between client and designer based on trust.

In fact, when she first commissioned her new home and studio, sculptor and artist Alice Trepp had in mind a typical Tuscan villa: two “barchessas”, or service buildings, large spaces and tiled pitched roofs. Mino Caggiula Architects took on board the artist sentiments and turn them around, proposing a modern functional building: ‘bio-architecture’ rooted in nature and the site. Alice Trepp fell in love with the idea.


It’s the architecture must integrate nature, not nature that should integrate architecture”
Mino Caggiula

The residence is located in Origlio, a quiet little village off the beaten track whose natural beauty is enhanced by a small lake with a public pathway all around it. The basic design concept for the house was to follow and ‘extrude’ the contour lines of the site. This immediately ensured a balance between the environment and the new build, giving rise to what can be defined as a “bio-architecture” in perfect harmony with its natural setting. There is no evident hiatus between the natural landscape and the building. The sinuous shapes give a lightweight quality to the sculptural structure in fair face reinforced concrete, while the terrace configuration of the different levels gives rise to green roofs whose vegetation spills over onto the façade below. A natural-looking artificial shelter, this contemporary architecture blends with the landscape by molding the unrendered materials to fit seamlessly into the natural contour lines. Ample glazing follows the building’s solid forms, allowing sweeping views across the valley below. As a result, the structure’s footprint is minimal, the spaces harking back to ancient traditions.Blending nature and architecture in this way comes spontaneously to those who know how to listen. Atelier Trepp’s ‘organic’ program pivots around the concept of the ‘cenote’, a subsurface shallow, or hollow, surrounded by vegetation where the water at the bottom glistens in the sunlight.
In the words of architect Mino Caggiula:

We were able, thanks to our experience, to rotate the program around this smooth hole in the ceiling surrounded by cascading jasmine plants, at the bottom of which, to complete the bond with nature, lies a 30 cm deep deck-level pool. A place in a place. An architectural cenote is a natural clock marking out the passage of time as the sun’s warm rays move across it. Here, sight, smell, and hearing blend for a truly rare experience”.

See on Mino Caggiula Architects


Location: Origlio, Swiss
Surface: 454 sqm
Date: 2016 – 2019
Architect: Mino Caggiula
team: Laura Martinez, Maurizio Civelli, Andrea Maldarizzi


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