Fantastic Frank x Carlo Ratti Associati
Fantastic Frank x Carlo Ratti Associati
When we first saw the property of Santo Stefano Belbo one thing was clear - this will be something different. In all senses - different the way how we present the property, the way we sell it and what can be offered to the new owner. The location itself is transmitting a very individual and customised spirit - when you stand there you feel like a “ king of the valley “ ...everyone is down there and you are up here.
See the property: Santo Stefano Belbo.
This is the reason we contacted one of the most visionary Italian architect studios Carlo Ratti Associati to offer a possibility to work together with the new property owner to create something really meaningful and beautiful, the same as the nature around there offers to us.
To explain how the Carlo Ratti Associati studio see todays private living space we interviewed the CRA Senior Architect Emma Greer.
1. Can you describe today's private house?
Much to many designers' dismay, private houses tend to be a form of self-expression for their owners - full of kitschy artefacts and questionable colour palettes. In a sense, we are still rebelling against the mass housing projects of the post-war period. Dutch architect John Habraken was very vocal about this in the 1960s, leading to a new architectural model for contemporary housing called: support and infill. The basic idea of the support and infill concept is that part of the housing unit should be within the realm of the dweller who can change and adapt it as he/she wishes. The other part, however belongs to a larger infrastructure about which one individual cannot decide alone, but must abide by the rules and professional conventions of the larger group, be that his neighbourhood or a more distant local authority.
2. Interaction in the house between human & nature
Green space is vital of course – as Henry Thoreau said, "we can never have enough of nature." Indeed, the relationship between the countryside and the city is a recurring theme in Western history, from ancient Greece to Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities to Frank Lloyd Wright's urban utopias. In the 20th century, cities expanded outwards to connect with nature and the countryside. Now, we ask, how can we bring nature back into a dense city?
I will note that a dense city does not need to be necessarily vertical. Who would guess that Barcelona has one of the highest densities in the world? It looks like a fairly low-rise city. But its courtyards – unlike towers, as was demonstrated by the pioneering work of Leslie Martin and Lionel March in the 20th century – exhibit a very effective use of the ground. Such strategies are important to ensure that tomorrow's (and today's) urban dweller remain connected with nature and that their "biophilia" – that innate need we have as humans to have life around us, according to Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson – is satisfied.
This is a topic that is important for us at CRA – for instance, with the design we did with BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group for the CapitaSpring skyscraper, one of the tallest building in Singapore: it will feature a tropical forest at its core. And for last year's Salone del Mobile, during Milan Design Week, we designed a pavilion, Living Nature, which combined all four seasons together under the same roof. In both these cases, we are experimenting with sustainable climate mitigation technologies – Living Nature, for instance, was designed for a net zero carbon footprint even while preserving very different microcosms. Such advanced climate control mechanisms are essential in imagining green spaces for the dense cities of the future.
3. What about luxury house today?
Luxury (or conspicuous consumption) is becoming harder to spot these days as dwellers spend more on experience that material goods. One might say that luxury is being redefined based on proximity to transit, green spaces, views, clean air, delivery services, etc.
4. Vision of futures private house?
Usually, trends that continue are timeless ones. For instance, one that I am particularly interested in is that of "sharing", which I see as bridging various aspects of the ways we live, work and play. Digital technologies are increasing the potential for greater sharing, and thus for greater efficiency of resources.
Examples abound, such as housing and mobility. In terms of the former, attitudes are already changing: the 20th century dream of a suburban house and a yard is being replaced with a vision of a more dynamic and urban lifestyle. This is a more sustainable and communal dream for housing, facilitated by IoT technologies that will allow spaces to be more reconfigurable and respond to their users' changing needs. Such a vision of housing is central to the renovation we are working on, in our international design and innovation office CRA – Carlo Ratti Associati, of Caserma Lamarmora, a former 19th-century military complex in Torino, Italy. The design offers a fresh take on the barracks' characteristic modular structure, which will be updated and reimagined to welcome a new mix of functions for co-living, co-making and co-working: from labs for Makers to residences for students and locals. The site development encourages bottom-up growth, without imposing any fixed notions of how the space should be used. Living is reimagined as a series of activities that can often be shared. Co-living, like co-working, proposes an alternative model that prioritizes synergies between co-livers and reusing resources in order to accommodate the flexibility that has become inherent to many people's lives. It does not mean the renunciation of private spaces, but the sharing of certain key spaces, like major living rooms, ample balconies, and key services – think about a professional kitchen – encouraging a more communal lifestyle. It means pooling together some functions that are rarely used for the benefits of all.
For obvious reasons, co-living buildings might initially seem more adept for single professionals, whose lifestyles are often flexible and not so tied down to a specific place, and who could benefit most from sharing resources. That being said, there is no reason why families could not also participate in co-living: for instance, in the modular configuration I was mentioning earlier, one could imagine that a family would occupy several of these spaces, in proportion to their size and privacy needs. Again, the enabler is the possibility to schedule and book online, perhaps with a system of fees and rewards in order to avoid misuse of the system.
5. Essentials for the house in the future?
Another change in housing will stem more directly from the incorporation of digital technologies into our daily environments. I do not think this will result in houses appearing much different, in the same way that houses from ancient Rome do not seem so dissimilar to the ones we have now. We'll always need horizontal floors for living, vertical walls to delineate space and enclosures to protect us from the outside. We'll always need these "fundamentals" of architecture, as Rem Koolhaas called and celebrated them in his Venice Biennale. What will change is not so much the appearance as the experience of our homes, which will cease to be purely physical entities, becoming at the convergence of the physical and digital worlds.
6. Explain more about the CRA vision of projects of private houses?
At CRA we follow a user-centred approach. Our design brief starts from the habits of the dweller. A series of rituals becomes a sequence or storyboard, this storyboard becomes a sequence of functions and spaces, together these spaces shape the architectural form.
7. How is your today's ideal client and which kind of project would you like to create together?
A crazy, visionary client who is not afraid of taking risks and will allow the designer to be the dictator of good taste :)