House in the hills - Montevecchia (LC)

A converted wine cellar

In the hills near Montevecchia in Upper Brianza to the north of Milan, a former 19th-century agricultural building has been repurposed and given a new look. The result is a family home that combines history and modernity, starting with the choice of materials
Laura Ragazzola
Marcello Mariana
Francesco Manzoni + Paolo Manzoni | a25architetti
Ceramic surfaces
FAPIR ceramiche
Year of completion

Brothers Francesco and Paolo Manzoni, also known as a25Architetti (the name refers to the address of their studio) have given a new lease of life to a former warehouse in a historic winery in the hills near the village of Montevecchia, not far from Milan. The aim was to convert a portion of a large nineteenth-century agricultural building into a modern, functional apartment that would be ideal for a couple.
“Right from the start we realised that it would not be an easy project, especially as the building had been remodelled in the 1980s without much consideration for its history,” explains Francesco Manzoni, who has been collaborating closely with his brother Paolo since 2018. “The initial idea was to find a common language between history and modernity, starting with the choice of materials.”
This is hardly a new approach for the two young architects, whose skill in exploiting the context and combining past and present won them the Young Talent of Italian Architecture 2021 award.
It is precisely this relationship between building and materials, between tradition and a contemporary vision that dictates all the design choices in this renovation project, including the construction details and choice of materials. The spaces in the well-preserved old vaulted cellar “required only minor maintenance work”, explains Manzoni. “We kept the original floors but above all sought to enhance the visibility of the old limestone and Molera stone masonry, the same materials used to build the beautiful vineyard terraces in the hills around Montevecchia.” The outdoor area, once an open-air warehouse and now an entrance portico, also retains its original appearance.
But it is in the former ground-floor warehouse that the contemporary project really comes to life. Here “the double-height space once used for storing hay offers a reminder of the building’s historical agricultural function while serving as the central nucleus around which the spaces of the new home were organised”.
The apartment is built on two levels. On the ground floor, the entrance leads to the kitchen and then, on a slightly higher level, the living room (“the house is built on rock, so we had to create different levels to accommodate an under-floor cavity, a solution that brings a certain dynamism to the entire living area”, explains Manzoni). The first floor has two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The layout of the 160-square-metre space has a modern but at the same time cosy and intimate feel typical of old houses. But in place of traditional interior masonry walls the project opted to use wooden furnishings as agile dividing elements with different uses and functions. The choice of materials enhances the contemporary feel of this portion of the house. The seamless stone-effect porcelain stoneware flooring, consisting of large-format 90×90 cm tiles from Blustyle’s Yosemite collection, creates a sense of visual and formal clarity while maintaining a distinctly traditional feel. “The bushhammered stone lining the archway between the cellar and the entrance hall marks the boundary between the two areas,” explains the architect. “Likewise, the first step of the stone staircase leading to the first floor represents the transition between different spaces and levels.” Ceramic tile also plays an important role in the bathrooms, where it is used to create shelving and the shower cubicles, while more traditional parquet flooring was chosen for the first-floor bedrooms.
The use of traditional techniques and materials with a contemporary twist is the stylistic hallmark of the entire project, which respects tradition and is consistent in its choices, echoing the words of one of the great masters of Scandinavian architecture, Alvar Aalto: “Nothing old is ever reborn but neither does it totally disappear. And that which has once been born will always reappear in a new form.”

Ceramic surfaces
porcelain stoneware
Rock Naturale
90x90 cm (spessore/thickness 10 mm)

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