Recently renovated and enlarged, this early 20th century house is located in the small town of Nichelino to the south of Turin in an outlying area where the remnants of a farming community live alongside industrial buildings and grander architecture testifying to the Turin’s past as a former capital city. The house itself is part of a once homogenous streetwall of two-story buildings whose single line of eaves and guttering still gives a sense of the original character of the neighborhood. Recent alterations and the addition of mansard roofs have caused the terrace to lose its original appearance as a series of modest, yet respectable homes with a certain claim to gentility as can be seen from the cornice molding on the façades of the end terrace building at the corner of the street. Today, however, the row is now hemmed in by a fairly busy street to the front and a railway line to the back, a factor that constrains the extent of enlargements and add-ons possible at the back of the house.
Although part of the same project, the renovation of the street-side elevation and the extension at the rear were approached in completely different ways. Both, however, are the result of careful consideration of the most appropriate contemporary intervention in a relatively fragile urban fabric where a minor yet dignified architectural substrate had already undergone several recent decisive, if not out-rightly aggressive, changes in recent years. Architect Raimondo Guidacci has produced a contemporary program comprising a few highly distinctive elements used in a restrained yet very effective way. Both the remodeling of the front elevation and the extension to the back display the same attention to detail, careful choice of materials and subdued elegance. Dividing the street façade into two distinct sections imparts a formal, two-dimensional elegance that nonetheless is a recognizable single unit. Similarly, the distinctive, easy-to-read elements of the contemporary rear extension maintain a linear continuity with the original house and its neighbors.
Although in striking contrast, both portions of the street frontage clearly indicate that this is the ‘closed’ side of a house that now opens out towards the rear where the extension – two new levels with a day area and kitchen on the ground floor and a night zone above - is the new center to the life going on inside. The extension is a whole new house, a series of functional spaces, elegant contemporary additions for modern lifestyles. Ample full-height glazing provides unusually luminous interiors. The linearity of the ‘cornices’ (upper slab and cornice) articulates the staggered volumes of the trapeze-shaped plan designed to fit in with the available space between the original back wall and the railway tracks. Sliding aluminum shutters add to the luminosity of the façade. They also change the whole appearance of the elevation depending on whether open or closed. The result is an elegant modern living space opening out onto a small private backyard, a place where interiors and exteriors form an intimate physical continuum. The deceptively simple design is the result of meticulous attention to composition and detail – the inverted pillar under the balcony is an example. The architect’s reasoned approach has allowed an excellent balance between expressive and functional architecture in a program that one could even call poetic.
The two-part street-side elevation is united by the large linear aluminum-clad cornice and overhang. The pipe draining water from the concealed guttering emphasizes the division of the façade, intimating that these closed walls staunchly defend the privacy of family life inside. The left side comprises horizontally laid slats of white marble on a Corten plinth that sits easily with the uneven sidewalk. The right side is a series of staggered Corten panels. The entrance, garage opening, and window shutters are hardly visible, melding with the surface that contrasts strikingly with the reflective marble next to it. Here too, there is a sense of a tightly controlled overall program where every detail has been carefully thought through, down to the engraved street number on the metal slab next to the front door and the door handle carved into the thick door cladding.
Front and back of this renovated building display different characteristics: the two-section street frontage is textured and pictorial while the rear is spatial expansive. Yet both are the product of the same compositional rigueur that together provides a quality living environment.
Location: Nichelino, Torino
Completion Date: 2018
Gross Floor Area: 90 m2
Architect: Raimondo Guidacci
Artistic Director: Raimondo Guidacci
Project management: Diego Paltanin
Structural: Diego Paltanin
Marble Coverings: Catella Fratelli
Fotografie: © Beppe Giardino
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