Freedom afforded by discipline
Overlooking the lake of the same name, the town of Lugano extends for a few kilometers along the shore; its urban development also penetrates into one of Canton Ticino’s deep valleys. The complex, articulated morphology of the Lugano valley has strongly conditioned how people live there: the oldest, densest settlement is congregated along the lake shore, including the main services and institutions; the more recent part of town, consisting of a regular and relatively compact fabric formed by small buildings of various heights, has expanded over the flat land. On the surrounding heights and in the deep side valleys is a spread-out patchwork of villas and single-family houses, densely dotting steep slopes in an exclusive and privileged place of residence.
Lugano-born architect Nicola Probst has designed a residence for one of the steep slopes in this part of town that was conceived and modelled out of the area’s topography. The people who owned the plot, a young couple with two small children, wanted the option of adding two more units to their own while at the same time enjoying absolute privacy from any tenants.
Nicola Probst’s designers followed a context-oriented approach to arrive at the optimal solution suggested by the place itself. They came up with a volume over four levels to fill the height difference on the property lot, while at the same providing the privacy and exclusivity stipulated by the clients.
A structural response to the topography of place led to this harmonious and varied composition of volumes and spaces: the overlapping levels are conceived as open, staggered boxes, delimited laterally by partitions that allow for wide openings towards the valley panorama. The load-bearing side walls free the main façades from the orthogonal rigor of the overlapping volumes: the southern elevation’s oblique pillars provide counterpoint to the design’s rationality, as well as offering the finest views over the surrounding valleys.
With three of its walls built into the ground, the bottommost floor houses two large garages and technical rooms, its hermetic brown façade emerging from the hillside yet blending in with the side slopes, emphasizing its detachment from the white upper volumes. On the upper floors, the compactness and solidity of the ground floor give way to bright white cladding and large open terraces.
On the first floor, the two independent mirror-image apartments requested by the client overlook a large terrace with views out over the valley. Here, the living area and master bedroom look out the panorama through large windows; service areas and guest rooms are on the hill side.
The owners’ residence covers the upper floors, the day area below and the night area above; the apartment incorporates a large number of open spaces that offer the widest variety of use possibilities. The second floor widens out over the hill, taking advantage of the floor below to deploy a large terrace overlooking the landscape. Defining the parallelepiped outline of the structure, large glazed panes separate the living area from the swimming pool to the west, and a mineral garden to the east. The upper floor, which is set back and completely raised off the ground, houses three bedrooms and associated bathrooms; here, the façade reprises the characteristics of the ground floor to ensure the required levels of intimacy and privacy.
The interiors were conceived to continue the whiteness, purity and linearity of the external elevations: the color white also characterizes horizontal surfaces, furniture and the custom-made components. Glass windows and partitions help dissolve the boundary between inside and outside, reinforcing the intended image of superimposed structural boxes.
As with many of his projects, Nicola Probst’s approach demonstrates a modus operandi that is never stylistic and standardized, but rather always links in to place, in what is conceived as an evolutionary and ever-evolving process. The rolling hills of Lugano or the suburban plain both offer valuable opportunities to bring out the potential of place through architectural design.
Location: Lugano, Switzerland - Completion Date: 2019 - Gross Floor Area: 1,150 m2 - Architect:
Nicola Probst Architetti - Design Team: Nicola Probst, Fausto Fabiano, Claudio Carniato, Mirko Pipitone
Construction Management: Studio Stoppani - Main Contractor: Fincasa
Structural: Studio Lucini - Building Physics: Uce Ticino - Services Engineering: Verzeri & Asmus
Interior Design: New Line
False Ceilings: Knauf
Text by Caterina Testa
Photography by Alexandre Zveiger
All images courtesy of Nicola Probst Architetti