Contra' Leopardi: the contemporary 'old town' by Toti Semerano

Rich solutions as an antidote to the repetitive banality of “current” solutions

by Malcolm Clark
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 Contrà Leopardi, the residential complex designed by architect and artist Toti Semerano, is located near Treviso, in Olmi di San Biagio di Callalta. Contra' Leopardi recovers the experience of old towns in “contemporary” terms, with attention focussed on the richness of solutions as an antidote to the repetitive banality of many “current” solutions. It reprocesses historical urban models in the light of new technologies, in order to achieve a residential intervention that has the thickness, the complexity, and consequently the quality of the urban fabric.

The work comprises 15 residential blocks for a total of 36 environmentally friendly units, mainly distributed on two floors. It is a place to walk through, whose layout has no straight lines but glimpses, sequences of views capable of surprising, in which urban homogeneity, given by the colour treatment of the surfaces, is accompanied by the insertion of “unique pieces” that break the spatial continuum by playing with light, shadows and surfaces.

The district is entirely pedestrian and the organization of space is built around an urban fabric of “networks”, made of alleys, plazas, squares, where gardens are integrated. It is conceived as a place where it is pleasant to stop and read or chat with others, play and relax, rather than be led quickly back to take refuge at home.

The careful design of the external space, with the garden fences to the well-thought out positioning of tall trees, eliminates any possibility of introspection among the units. The visual continuity of public spaces and private gardens is through the use of fences, but it does not hinder the view, so much so that the external landscape is a visual extension of the view of the individual housing units. Each house has a garden, an outdoor protected area, or an equivalent sized terrace. The green is connected to the houses themselves and is a constant presence.

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    Contrà Leopardi 94

    Contrà Leopardi

    San Biagio di Callalta / Italy / 2009