A Home Embraces a Fig Tree
“Between a tree and a house, I choose the tree”. These words, once spoken by the Italian architect, designer and academic Carlo Scarpa, were the starting point for a project - The Greenary - by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and architect Italo Rota. But they also wanted to take the idea further when they tackled the design for this country house near Parma. The very name - Greenary - is a symbiotic blending of “green” and “granary” and the villa itself was created inside an old farmhouse that literally hugs a 60-year old, 10 m-high Port Jackson fig (Ficus australis). As the founder of CRA highlighted, the design focuses on the intersection between the natural and artificial worlds, creating a domestic space built around nature, literally. This brings the rhythm of nature inside and reinterprets an idea first coined by Harvard biologist and professor Edward Osborne Wilson, called biophilia. The need to create a corner for the symbiosis between people and nature reaches its apogee in the living space, which not only looks out onto greenery, but is also the habitat for the fig tree. The garden-facing façade has full-height glazing, providing a prime example of how the design foregrounded the importance of providing what the tree needs.
The farm was, because of this, entirely redesigned with the sole target of optimizing, where necessary, the amount of natural light. Each floor is interconnected in a design that throws out the traditional division of space in such houses in favor of a reinterpretation of 20th-century architect Adolf Loos’ principle of Raumplan, a concept in which freedom of thought can lead to the creation of spaces of different sizes, levels and heights according to function. “The other levels of the house”, explained Carlo Ratti, “were conceived to form a naturally-inspired journey, throughout which the tree serves as a prominent pillar. Nature is also incorporated in other forms throughout the interior space, for example through the integration of innovative products with evident sensory qualities, such as floors made from Mapei materials that have a strong material effect. This is a choice to make a tangible reconnection with the spirit of the entire house”. The complex also includes a second building, which is a working space made out of the old granary, and a garden landscaped by Paolo Pejrone.