Casa Riga combines a home for a farm-owning family with a hospitality facility, specifically a seven-bedroom farmhouse vacation property. The vision that the clients and architects shared focused on a single, clear and significant idea: a desire to consider the Alpine landscape as a precious resource, to conceive the addition of this architecture as an element that belongs to the meadowland and orchard landscape, that is part of the countryside without altering its configuration any more than a bare and necessary minimum.
The project starts with the terrain of gentle sloping terraces. This starting point spawned a conception of architecture inserted into the terrain itself, leveraging the idea that architecture may blend into the slope and the landscape itself, becoming part and parcel of a morphological sequence that does not modify the landscape’s intrinsic relationships.
The building develops in a linear manner. The most succinct description of what the construction looks like when viewed from further downhill is as a “line” in the landscape, the building’s glazed, south-facing frontage representing merely a material break, a modest vertical cut into the land. When viewed from higher up, the building’s continuity with the meadow is plain to see: thanks to its grassy roof, to the eye the building looks like a mere skip in level. The building does not function by addition because it does not emerge in terms of height; on the contrary, it is integrated into the terrain, into the landscape, exploiting existing paths and routes for access.
The architectural plan layout is characterized by geometrical linearity. The south-facing guest rooms are accessed via a corridor set behind them, on the landward side; the owners’ home looks out to the west. Between the two, a hub/interface serves as both entrance lobby and breakfast room for the farmhouse accommodation. The entrance/hub is characterized by a brick wall to the west, with transverse walls leading in to the entrance, clad in local stone using material recouped from old terracing. The resulting external sheltered and secluded pre-space creates a continuity-based relationship with the inside via full-height windows.
Natural light and the construction’s directional orientation are key aspects of the design, a direct consequence of how the architectural approach was conceived to be part of the landscape and its raison d’être.
The south- and west-facing windows act as light sources, with curtains inside to provide shade, while additional light flows in from the uphill patios excavated into the ground. This combination of natural lighting ensures an ongoing relationship with the light as it varies during the day, restoring the temporal cycle as a perceptual indoor value. Indeed, this significant design feature demonstrates the architects’ penchant for considering the nature of things and time itself as valuable resources.
The building’s orientation was also an optimal choice for maintaining thermal balance: deep cantilevered guttering on the wooden overhang along the front offers protection, preventing direct sunlight during the summer months from striking the windows, while in the wintertime maximizing the sun’s rays.
This project pursues the objective of high standards of living comfort as part of a qualitatively-significant concept of livability. When it comes to climate control, the design combines passive systems - suitable thermal insulation based on high-performance insulating materials like wood fiber - with advanced climate control systems such as a heat pump and geothermal probes, as well as expelled air heat recovery ventilation. High levels of energy conservation, high standards of installation efficiency and technology, appropriate construction techniques, and internal room spaces structured out of exposed load-bearing X-LAM wooden panels are all reasons why Casa Riga achieved CasaClima assessment Gold standard certification.
Location: Comano Terme, Trento
Gross Floor Area: 776 m2
Usable Floor Area: 507 m2
Cost of Construction: 1,650,000 Euros
Architect and Coordinator: Stefania Saracino e Franco Tagliabue Architetti
Plant Consultancy and Energy Project: Energytech Ingegneri
Timber Envelope Engineering and Construction: Damiani-Holz&KO – LignoAlp
Photography: © Davide Cornacchini, courtesy of Stefania Saracino e Franco Tagliabue Architetti
Stefania Saracino e Franco Tagliabue Architetti
Stefania Saracino graduated in architecture from IUAV in Venice and the Technical University of Lisbon, with Gonçalo Sousa Byrne and Bernardo Secchi; she went on to earn a Master’s in Cultural Heritage Management and Communications from the Scuola Normale di Pisa.
Franco Tagliabue graduated in Architecture from the Politecnico di Milano, where he has since taught the Museography Course. He won the Maestri Comacini Architectural Prize in 2006 and 2012 for his Casa Pagani exhibition installation at Castello di Valsolda.
Their design-led Practice investigates the relationship between architecture and landscape through landscaping and environmental regeneration. The Practice has built highly energy efficient constructions in delicate landscape contexts, and been involved in a variety of private and public works, including new barracks for firefighters in Vadena, Bolzano; they also won first prize in the Porta Nuova Brienno Competition to design underground parking at Lake Como.
The Casa Riga project at Comano Terme won a number of awards: first prize at the 2016 CasaClima Awards, at the 2016 THE PLAN Awards in the Hospitality category, at Archilegno 2018, and at PIDA in the Hotels category; it also took third prize in Constructive Alps 2015, an international architecture competition for sustainable buildings in the Alps. The Practice featured at “Arcipelago Italia” in the Italia Pavilion, at the 16th Venice International Architecture Biennale.