An interweaving of nature, crops, history and culture… To Susanna Nobili’s mind, the essential task of contemporary architecture is to acknowledge these primary elements, indeed, the constituents of Italian culture in the broad sense of the term. Something of an interpretation of necessity, the design consolidates its own groundbreaking, aesthetic qualities through an assessment of the burgeoning web of relationships that make up any given environment. Through form and its approach to living, the project blazes a trail in its selective capacity for an implicit, forward-projected definition of civilization, as expressed through space, material and ideals. In its conception, the depth of the project and its breadth of ideal sensations and tensions, this approach to living is, to a greater or lesser extent, informed by an awareness that it only exists within a complex web of relations, the anthropic interface with our material and ideal surroundings. The location is a sprawling Tuscan farmhouse – accommodation and stabling – in an advanced state of decay, albeit with some portions preserved: the material traces of a building that stands alone in the countryside amid ruined elements. Historical references draw inspiration and energy from the persistence of the countryside and the views manifested over the course of time in works of art. Transformation is enabled by consolidation. Transformation is enabled by evaluating the texture of rural architecture, its treasure trove of values and its historic foundations of a relationship with man-made landscapes. Transformation is enabled by adding nuclei for expansion, a concretion around the existing and renewed architecture, radiating out along physical outlines, guidelines and project-drafted prospects, making it a construction material that is every bit as important as concrete materials themselves. Geometric outlines determine the combination of different materials and orientations in the flooring, transferring to things and reality the abstraction expressed in the building’s design plan. Everything comes back to an overall interpretation of internal relations and relations with a historicized landscape. Light is a concrete material for highlighting the building’s spaces. A selective approach to living has been adopted, along with strict clarity (geometrically proportional) in defining the fundamental principle of seeking elegance through design for residential living. When it comes to the materials used in the construction, the farmhouse’s traditional identity, stone, is amply visible in the construction. Stone has been transformed into an anchor, the basis on which to graft a contemporary vision in the form of the walls, which stand as a sculptural element within the interior. A refined contemporary emerges within the previously-existing building through a structural canvas draped over a cross-shaped set of steel pillars supported by wooden beams. Special project features denote the living space. An outsized bookcase affixed to the stone wall in the living area offers added value, creating and connoting space livability. Anchored to the wall by hexagon-head rivets, it takes up almost the entire surface, rising towards the top of the cabin-style section of the building. The metal shelves are affixed to nine slender uprights via brackets, and are folded back to protect the contact point with the stone walls, with three types of side guides. Books very much impact the architecture in this monumental “home” for publications. The colors of book spines lined up on the modular structure define the space, contrasting with the backdrop of the densely irregular stone walling. An airy and elegant steel ladder overlaps a portion of the bookcase, its rungs the same height as the shelving. An interpretation of the geometry implicit in the landscape is woven in to the project’s ideals and conceptual strengths. Visual axes intercept and connect the sequence of interior spaces. Geometric pathways act as outlines on the floor to define abstract spaces. Visual recesses are locations for living, featuring large glazed openings built right into the converted building’s walls. A glazed entrance area offers interconnection between the building and the south-facing extension, which has separate accommodation and looks out over the countryside along the longitudinal axis. The crosscutting visual axis that runs between the living room and dining area forms the other ordering principle of the home, establishing a criss-cross intersection for outlines and sightlines.
Location: Scansano, Grosseto
Gross Floor Area: 800 m2
Architects: SNA - Susanna Nobili Architettura, Elena Mattei, Daniele Altana
Contractor: Bicocchi e Fedi
Structural: Nicola Chimenti
Technical Systems: Carlo Beruatto
Lighting: iGuzzini, Effetto Luce, Flos, Artemide
Sanitary Ware and Fittings: Signorini, Globo
Steel Structural System: Officine Ragnini
Photography: SNA Courtesy of SNA - Susanna Nobili Architettura
Susanna Nobili Architettura
She studied architecture in Rome, graduating in 1976 before going on to further studies in Paris and Vienna. She began her career at the Nervi Practice in Rome. She was a director at the Milan Triennale from 1983 to 1992. Since 2008, she has lectured for the Master in Interior Design at the IED in Rome. In 2016, she won the National Prize for Italian Architecture at Selinunte. In 2017, she was made a Professor at the Sofia International Academy of Architecture. She has been a member of the Advisory Committee of the Fondazione Primoli in Rome since 2018.
Her projects – town planning, design and public architecture (a new Italian Chancellery in Guatemala City; a new Italian Chancellery in Washington DC, with Piero Sartogo, who won the Award of Excellence for Extraordinary Achievement in Architecture 2000 and the Marble Architectural Awards 2003; design of the Central Gallery at Palazzo Italia for Expo ‘92, Seville) and private work (the headquarters of the Banca di Roma, New York), restoration of historic buildings (Palazzo Poli, the San Michele a Ripa complex, and Palazzo Baldassini in Roma), exhibitions (Puvis de Chavannes, Il Secolo dell’Avvocato, I libri che hanno fatto l’Europa) and many private residences – are all characterized by a strong sensitivity for the environment and an interest in light as a material and as a design component.