Carabbia is a small hamlet nestled in the hills west of Mount San Salvatore, just south of Lugano. It is a unique place with a fairytale-like quality; set in a enclosed valley, it seems like the world’s end.
The house is a sequence of spaces that ascend along a spiral, enclosed within the perimeter of a square plan. The dynamism of the interior spaces is contained and controlled by the static balance of the square and it is this precise square geometry that affords the house its identifiable form. The spaces are arranged in order to relate with each other and with the context; there is a sense of continuous motion within the house. These changing spatial relationships serve to capture different pieces of the unspoilt countryside, helping the inhabitants to write and frame their own stories, inspired by the landscape.
The sensitive design of the house relates it to the territory and as such, despite its precise form, this small building (150sqm) manages to break free from its urban context. It wraps around a triangular courtyard that is the ‘great eye’ of the house, carved out in order to extend the internal spaces to the outside and to expand the perception across the void. This courtyard is the centre of gravity for the composition and is intentionally an external space, cementing the impression that that the living spaces are not confined solely to the interior. Thanks to its transparency, all the areas of the house, on all levels, flow into each other, and embrace the surrounding landscape. The house is an organism that grows up from the land, its highest point becomes the beacon, a lighthouse, that marks the boundary between two conditions; the built up valley floor below and the hills behind.
The southwest facing courtyard embraces its chosen landscape. The surrounding environment is unique, offering a sequence of different layers, strata of landscape, on different scales: from the mountains, to the hills, valleys, to the gardens, trees and flowers, they flow into the heart of the new volume which, through its proportions manages to accommodate the wealth of detail and nuances of nature. It is an attempt to take ownership of the territory and pull it into the interior spaces.
The external spaces that extend to the horizon are also the adopted living spaces of the house, giving the impression that you live beyond the physical dimensions of the house and are projected out into the land. Every space is orientated differently and thus expands the perception of time spent living in the house, in this protected part of the landscape. When, from the same vantage point you are exposed to many visual and sensual cues, your time in the place seems to expand.
The simplicity and homogeneity of the materials used reinforces the unitary vision of the built volume and enhances its dialogue with the natural context. The torsion of the house also serves to gradually reduce the intermediate scale between the inhabitant and the landscape. It is also orientated in order to optimise the effect of the sun and shade during the summer months. It is a line drawn in the territory that synthesizes the complexity of building.
The internal spaces are orientated so that the bedrooms to the east enjoy the morning light, the dining area looks south and the living room , west, and as such the sun moves about the house accompanying and following the daily tempo of family life. Each living space, apart from that in the upper ‘lighthouse’ , has a physical relationship, an attachment, to the natural terrain. Although the land has been significantly altered to create the external rest areas, it retains the essential charm of the natural environment.
From the outside, the house appears as walled enclosure that follows the fall of the land, like a spine leaning on the mountain and in its organic movement protecting from the north and opening to the south. The interior is a surprising revelation, once inside the open and ample spaces seduce, you find yourself in a great grotto, open to the valley.
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