Location_via Castiglione, Bologna
Service_Preliminary project, executive project, building site direction
Bologna is a democratic city by its very physical constitution.
Its infinite arcades that define its urban form are spaces that everyone can use, always.
There is no difference between the rich and the wanderer, anyone can find immediate shelter from the sun or rain and physically, not just visually, enjoy this architectural beauty.
A gigantic dollhouse to get lost, always feeling protected by the embrace of its arches.
Walking along the network of streets that irrigates the historic center, one could wonders what happens inside the large blocks, behind the curtain of building.
The inner part of the blocks are effectively a world of their own, where time seems to slow down and the buildings on the edge of the lot, fringes between courtyards and gardens.
This project concerns the renovation of a single house immersed in the classic historic urban block. A dense and mineral building perimeter curtain conceals a green heart that is completely invisible from the street.
The condominium entrance is from via Castiglione, but the building subject to intervention is a twentieth-century aggregation of the opposite building front, which overlooks via degli Angeli.
Only after a long and varied access path, one could reach the tiny courtyard of the property, which however takes advantage of the luxuriant trees of the neighboring gardens.
As typical for italian historic centers bound by the Sopraintendenza (Italian governative “National Trust”), the existing building could not be demolished/rebuilt, nor expanded.
The only conceivable intervention on the outside had to be a zero volume architecture.
To unify into a single space the courtyard and the living area, which in fact appeared as a mezzanine, a wooden platform was built.
The podium consists of a steel frame covered in recycled wood planks painted black.
The remaining space on the ground level, whose flooring is made of volcanic stone flakes, allows to reach a bicycle shed, created by bending a single natural steel sheet, like a wing.
The difference in height of about 90 cm is overcome by two steps whose classic amphitheater proportions allow them to be used as an informal seat.
They are interspersed with two steps made with concrete blocks cast on site.
The external table, also in metal structure, is designed to exploit, with sartorial precision, every single centimeter of the small site. The covering of the benches and the table top was made by cutting maxi slabs of neutral-toned porcelain stoneware.
The constraint of the Sopraintendenza concerning the external appearance of the house, weighed heavily on the conception of the project, which is in fact rather conservative.
Even if the original building did not have any historical value in itself, the prescriptions of the Commission for the Landscape regarding the environmental context conservation , have been followed.
The jovial yellow color and the cornices decorated with dotted motifs are therefore preserved, achieving a sophisticated balance between the local Bolognese identity and contemporary language.
The primary operation was cleaning and rarefy the most banal building elements. A small balcony on the first floor was demolished and all the double-leaf windows with external shutters were transformed into single-leaf glass doors, without shutters and with extremely thin aluminum frames.
The fundamental request of the client, which can be summarized as “more natural light inside and more overlooking towards the garden” was taken literally. The interiors, from beeing dark, are now flooded with light and the generous views towards the surrounding greenery enlarge the otherwise cramped interior spaces. The masonry jambs, covered with steel plates protruding like blades from the edge of the facade, strongly express the operation of piercing the facade to merge inside and outside.
Nautical rope is used as a balustrade for the glass doors on the upper floor, threaded like a shoelace into holes made in the steel plates. A sort of french balcony a la marinara, frugal but unexpensive.
Among the tacit wishes of the client there was in fact the will of preserving a certain architectural sobriety of the whole, certainly not transforming the small house they had purchased into a pretentious urban villa.
This attitude profoundly expresses the way of being of a large community of people who live in Bologna.
The face of this small architecture thus expresses a contemporary feeling, which is actually a paradigm shift, in which the excess of design, inflated by the preeminence of individual expression, is replaced by an anti-design made up of simple, almost vernacular things, of a calm sobriety and not in contrast with the place where they are.
If it is true that a private architecture must express the ethos of the client and not the ego of the architect, the face of this architecture represents a precise life style.
The general conformation of the building, characterized by a central staircase has been preserved, indeed emphasized to the point of making it the fulcrum of the house which unifies the living area on the ground floor and the night area on the first floor.
The entry point has been moved from central to a more secluded position which creates an entrance hall.
The basement, originally served only by an impervious ladder, was the result of an illegal self-construction of the previous property, which at an unspecified moment in the 1960s began digging under the building with a shovel. Emptying the earth around and leaving the work unfinished, probably due to the risk of seeing the house collapse on his head.
From the outset, the renovation of the entire building considered the recovery of this infernal space as a focal point. Here the second bathroom has found space, after the existing one on the ground floor, has left room for a small entrance hall. The basement program is completed by a laundry closet and a guest bedroom. These environments enormously expand the potential of the home.
Conceived in continuity with the entire living area on the ground floor, it consists of a simple linear block whose top is in cast-in-place concrete and protected with transparent resin. Even the sink is in reinforced concrete and was built by the construction company with skilled formwork.
The linear kitchen made up of only under-counter units minimizes the volumetric encumbrance of the kitchen.
Built from scratch after the demolition of the old one, it is structured with a 20 x 20 mm iron frame. With the exception of the steps in the basement which are in masonry covered with cement resin alternating with blocks of solid oak from a local sawmill.
The idea of building a large frame comes from the client’s work/passion for bicycles, especially those built with custom-made frames.
Just as the bicycle is a man’s prosthesis that allows him to run faster, so the staircase regenerates the home, connecting its different levels more effectively.
The prerogative of such a light staircase is to maintain visual and acoustic contact between the floors. Every structure and step encumbrance is kept to a minimum. The architecture thins out until it becomes pure graphics in space.
In addition to the bathroom created from scratch in the basement, an existing bathroom was recovered. Hanging like a cocoon above the last flight of the staircase, was a great exploitation of internal volume of the house.
Reduced to the essentials, the sink area is resolved with drywall counter tops covered with the same resin as the walls and floors in soft, neutral colors from the Kerakoll Design series.
Above, a ceramic washbasin bowl and the mixer with wall spout. Below, a shelf in raw steel.
Given the absolutely small size of the main bathroom, the shower area is “stolen” from the volume of one of the two bedrooms: a narrow passage crosses the spine wall and leads into a sort of hammam equipped with a bench. This environment, mainly used for shower, can be flooded to be used as a bathtub.