Immersed in the renowned South Tyrol wine country, on the outskirts of a small town surrounded by vineyards and home to several wineries, MoDusArchitects completed a two-family private residence that adds a contemporary twist of the vernacular in an agrarian landscape.  

Sited on the northern edge of an elongated plot and replacing an existing structure, the new structure rises from a plateau, with panoramic views over the Adige Valley, and orientates its southern facade to where a garden enhances the direct connection with the surrounding landscape. 

Two in one 

Visibilio House presents itself as a single-family home, when in fact it is divided into two separate living units – the larger one is designed for a family of four, while the smaller one is intended for guests and other family members. 

Tradition preserved 

Taking cue from Gustav Mahler’s quote, “(T)radition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire”, the project revisits and reconfigures an inventory of traditional building types and elements – the forecourt, the compact and carved out volume of the South Tyrolean farmhouse, the slippage between the roof and the structure below, the overhang, the excavated wine cellar and the large wood stove. 

A study in materials  

The architecture, together with the interiors of the house, is a study in materials and their implicit sensorial qualities. The domestic spaces conjure up a variegated array of experiences that transform daily and across the seasons to form an empirical frame for everyday living. Brick, terracotta, lime plaster, steel, wood and glass constitute the shifting palette of materials. 

Beautiful brick 

Faced in handmade brick with thickened mortar joints on three sides, Visibilio House appears as a figure sedimented over time. The elongated bricks move from the ground up in dark muddy grey tones to lighter sandy tones, to create a vibrant, tactile surface. 

At times distended to become a brise-soleil, at others compact and vertical to become a frieze, the subtleties of the brickwork not only draw from traditional granaries nearby, but pay homage to Nordic masterpieces, while digging into Italy’s rich patrimony of masonry architecture. 

To the south, the glazed facade maximises sun exposure, which is then tempered by controlled sun-shading systems in the warmer months, while the robustly insulated building envelope together with the low thermal conductivity of the brick help to regulate the indoor temperatures throughout the year. 

Connected interior spaces 

Lined by the elmwood cabinetry to one side and the staircase to the other, the entry forecourt provides the threshold between the outside and the inside. Moving into the double-height living room, this central space is the fulcrum around which other programmes unfold – an open kitchen and dining area with a breakfast patio to the east and a covered dining area to the south, guest quarters, a study and a multimedia room. 

Part elmwood, part burnished metal, the back wall of the kitchen mediates the meeting of the wood panels lining one side of the living room with the rough-hewn surfaces of the brick towards the east end of the house. In turn, the monolithic porphyry island plays off the brick backdrop and anchors cooking and food preparation more integrally into the domestic setting – be it with friends or a private family moment. 

Integrating outdoor elements with indoor spaces 

The project offers a host of different outdoor living environments that complement the interior spaces and provide different ways of engaging with the outdoors throughout the year. 

In addition to the exedra and sunken garden at the lower level, a rock garden brings light into the below-ground family room.  

On the ground floor, the living room pivots around a stone-paved patio, the kitchen leads onto an outdoor breakfast area and a raised vegetable garden, and the indoor dining area is mirrored by a double-height covered eating porch. On the upper level, the bedrooms extend outwards to include covered balconies while a small terrace connects the main bedroom with the library. 

Sustainable solutions 

Embedded within the logic of Visibilio House lies several ecological solutions that find a reciprocity between questions of sustainability and the driving tectonics of the house. In addition to the photovoltaic panels, a combination of radiant floor and ceiling heating and cooling systems works in tandem with the mechanically controlled ventilation system. Rainwater is harvested for the irrigation of the landscaping – a mixture of a wild meadow towards the street and a more formal garden closer to the house. 

In a curated balance between low- and high-tech solutions, the house is a CasaClima Gold Nature certified project – the highest level of certification with an overall efficiency of 2kg CO2/m2a. The “Nature” label assesses the eco-compatibility of the materials and systems used in the construction and the water impact of the building, with the intent to guarantee the comfort and healthiness of the indoor environment. 

Tailored solutions, refined details and a commitment to local craftmanship – MoDusArchitects has invented a delightful cocktail of the South Tyrolean vernacular flavoured by other Italian traditions to bring forth a house with many stories yet to be told.

Project name: Visibilio House.
Location: Oltradige (Bolzano), South Tyrol, Italy.
Architect: MoDusArchitects (Sandy Attia, Matteo Scagnol).
Site area: 3 076m².
Photography: Paolo Abate and Gustav Willeit.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://modusarchitects.com/ for the information in this editorial. 

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