There are few settings as bucolic as Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, with its old country homes dotting a landscape of vineyards. One of those dreamy residences, the Monticello House in Parma, stands out for its contemporary expansion: a series of concrete frames that extend the original home’s footprint and its connection to the outdoors.
This 330-square-metre project, designed by Francesco Di Gregorio, required more than just the proposal of something new, however. The existing house did not adhere to current seismic codes, yet its form had to be maintained in accordance with rules regarding the preservation of rural homes in the region. The solution: demolish the house and faithfully rebuild it, with bricks from surrounding historical country houses.
Newly rebuilt, the home was also renovated on the inside: refinished with exposed reinforced concrete and furnished with European oak millwork. German fabrics clad the walls and Italian ceramics and quartzite from the nearby Val Tar river were applied to other surfaces throughout.
While the home’s preservation and renovation was a major feat, its exterior expansion allowed for a new expression to be introduced. Di Gregorio, whose portfolio highlights an affinity for frameworks, designed a series of concrete frames that surrounds the original building. These hollow structures don’t actually touch the brick facade of the existing volume – “the interstitial space, the void, represents the intimate relations between past, present and future, on which the house is constantly interrogating,” the architect says – but they visually and programmatically connect indoors and out. Partially glassed in, the external pergolas provide patio spaces and moments where plants can grow and stretch around the building.
The most difficult aspect of the project: “Without entering into other technical details, the most challenging part was the junction between the vertical and horizontal elements of the frames,” Di Gregorio says. The solution was to introduce a steel plate between the two parts in order to easily cast the concrete elements in place, “giving them the feeling of a hand-made construction while maintaining the linearity of the concrete frames.”
Di Gregorio explains that the cuboid frames’ rectilinear character was inspired by the vineyards surrounding the residence. This at first seems a contradiction: How could a lush landscape inspire such a pure, modern geometry? But when viewed from above, vineyards reveal their highly rational orderliness. “The aim was to create a filter between the landscape and the house, and at the same time a connection between them providing new points of view with different perspectives,” says Di Gregorio.
Di Gregorio Associati introduces a series of concrete frames, containing new spaces that connect indoors and out, to a private rural home in Emilia Romagna.