Sustainable architecture has many faces. Besides reduced emissions and energy consumption, it focuses on such aspects as the environmental impact of the construction phase, economic sustainability, and land consumption.
In its project for the redevelopment of GNR – Il Generale, located in the hills near Ivrea, Italy, Archisbang examined the sustainability issue from every angle. With its proven record of boldly reinterpreting existing buildings through contemporary architectural language (for example, Villa Nesi and its extension of a family home), Archisbang Associati began this project with an existing building from the ’60s that had no particular architectural value. To avoid demolition and extra land consumption, the firm opted to redevelop the structure from its bare bones up, thereby winding the clock back on its lifecycle, leaving its footprint unaltered, and minimizing waste materials, all while creating a work of architecture that’s comparable to a new building.
The constraints of working with an existing building were turned into opportunities by transforming structural and non-structural elements to reveal previously unexplored potentials. The building’s proportions create an imposing volumetric presence within its unremarkable residential surroundings. The materiality of its stuccoed lightweight concrete facades and the rigor of its large, square openings, which define solid and empty spaces, give the building the transcendental appearance of a fortress. This appearance is further underscored by the large rock on which the building stands, which can be seen at all levels through the interplay of empty spaces and double heights on the south elevation.
The search for the building’s untapped potential led to a concept of organizing its spaces in such a way as to provide levels of flexibility and dynamism in step with modern life. Three apartments were created from the existing home, each with an independent entrance and facade finishes that distinguish the one from the next. While the elevator and stairwell unite the whole, the metal ribbon of the external stairs make the entrances and rooftop terrace independently accessible.
The two mini apartments on the first floor share a living space but can be reconfigured as needed with a wooden panel that rotates 180 degrees. The main residence, on the top floor, opens directly onto the rooftop terrace and is bordered by forest trees to the north. The master bedroom is inside an exposed reinforced concrete box, which forms the main structural support for the existing structure as well as the new rooftop swimming pool.
The fluid interiors have roughly plastered walls, creating a continuity with the exterior. The floors are helicopter-finish concrete alternating with parquetry and ground concrete. The wood used for the doors, windows, and custom-made furniture softens the harshness of the minimalist lines, as do the views over outdoor greenery through extensive glazing and the way natural light cuts through each level.
From initial concept to final design, this project never betrayed its contemporary vision, successfully forging a coherent link between past and present that’s never banal.
Architect: Architecture Archisbang firm (Silvia Minutolo, Marco Giai Via, Alberto Perino)
Location: Ivrea (TO), Italy
Photography by © Aldo Amoretti
courtesy of Architecture_Archisbang firm (Silvia Minutolo, Marco Giai Via, Alberto Perino)
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