Projects

Montebar Villa - Medeglia, Ticino Canton (Switzerland)

An inhabited monolith

Villa Montebar is a prefabricated home set in landscaped grounds in the Swiss Alps. Looking like a cross between a monolith and a spaceship, it subverts the common image of a peaceful mountain chalet
Author
Katrin Cosseta
Architect
Jacopo Mascheroni - JM Architecture
Surfaces
CASALGRANDE PADANA
Distributor
Geos Italy
Year of completion
2015

In architecture as elsewhere, obstacles can sometimes inspire bold experimentation and give rise to ingenious solutions. For example, highly restrictive building regulations can push design research to extremes, leading to brilliant technical and formal results. The constraint in this project was that the architect should use dark grey pitched roofs to help integrate the building into the landscape. “So a pitched roof it will be!” appears to have been the response of Jacopo Mascheroni, a promising young architect who can already boast a number of prestigious projects and international awards, temporarily setting aside his penchant for brightly lit white houses with flat roofs. This project has a total of six roof pitches, composed with an asymmetric layout that ensures the main roof pitch has precisely the same inclination as the hillside. A continuous ceramic cladding extends over every oblique and vertical surface, bringing the façades and the roof together into a single unit. The result is a monolithic, monochromatic and mono-material building created with poetic rigour, demonstrating that Mascheroni has fully assimilated the lessons of one of his teachers, Richard Meier.
Although the building might at first glance seem to be a foreign element in the landscape, it gradually becomes evident just how harmoniously it blends into its surroundings, maintaining the same inclinations and materials and drawing in light and warmth in an almost osmotic exchange of energies.
Closed on three sides like a carapace to protect the internal spaces and its inhabitants, the house is completely open on its south elevation, where a large window and a terrace offer an 180 degree view from the living area. Organised on a single level, it consists of a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms (two of which are double height with gallery bedroom), a study, two bathrooms, laundry room, utility room, pantry and closet.
The building has an insulated wood frame structure with prefabricated elements that were constructed on-site in just a few days. The same layers are replicated on the roof and perimeter walls, including 22 centimetres of insulation and a double layer of external ventilation to create a high energy-performance envelope. But the most revolutionary technical and aesthetic aspect, an authentic project-within-a-project, is the exterior cladding that extends over the entire building.
The “skin” of Villa Montebar consists of porcelain panels (Pietre Native line, Amazzonia collection from Casalgrande Padana), chosen in the colour Dragon Black and a bushhammered finish to emphasise the material’s role as a hi-tech alternative to dark local stone. Each façade was designed one tile at a time to create a dynamic pattern with three different sized panels (45×90 cm, 30×90 cm and 15×90 cm). These were installed in a precise chequerboard pattern on an aluminium substructure using the ventilated façade technique and cut at 45 degrees on each edge to accentuate the geometric angularity of the volume. The same material is used on the folding shutters, which are designed to maintain the continuity of the façade design when they are closed. The shutters also serve to modulate the rhythms of the façades, especially in the evening when light filters in through the tall, narrow windows and creates highly atmospheric lighting effects. Even more spectacular is the thin sliver of light that delineates the base of the building, almost transforming it magically into a spaceship about to land. It is this capacity to combine primordial and futuristic elements that determines the mystery and profound appeal of this architecture.

Tiles
Casalgrande Padana, Pietre Native
Type
porcelain stoneware
Sizes
45x90 30x90 15x90 30x60 20x60 10x60 cm
Colours
Amazzonia Dragon Black, Pietre Etrusche Saturnia
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): < 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UNI EN ISO 10545-8
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): conforme
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): conforme
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): conforme
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): N/mm2 50÷60
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9 / R10A
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): conforme
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): conforme
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): conforme
Certifications and awards
LEED
EMAS
NF UPEC
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