“Alto e largo quanto un uomo con le braccia aperte, il quadrato sta, nelle più antiche scritture e nelle incisioni rupestri dei primi uomini a significare l’idea di recinto, di casa, di paese. “ Bruno Munari
“As tall and wide as a man standing with open arms, the square represents in ancient scriptures and cave paintings the idea of corral, home, village.”
At the outskirts of the working-class suburb of Solduno, in the midst of many colourful buildings there was a green plot, a community garden cultivated by settled Italian immigrants. The context is "poor" but rich in suggestions.
The new building forms a permeable link between the neighbourhood and the river.
Splitting the volume into two identical bodies, while reducing the impact also creates quality outdoor spaces between the new and the neighbouring buildings, making room for new vegetable plots. A community project, not only for the gardens: the flats are communicating through various overlooks, allowing interaction between the inhabitants.
From the square comes the grid, an undifferentiated order defining structure, plan and elevation. The grid evenly organises indoor and outdoor spaces, rooms and gardens, artifice and nature.
From memory comes continuity. Yesterday's gardens are given new life in the form of urban vegetable plots: the direct relationship between man and the cultivation of land continues.
Minimal typology, structure, construction and casing grant flexibility and enables change over time. At the service of durability and ecology, the external structure allows the floor plan to be divided without constraints, today and tomorrow.
The sixteen apartments are distributed on four floors around a central core. Each has a vegetable plot and a common terrace on the rooftop. The realisation of Casa agli Orti proves that is possible to build sustainable housing and quality spaces at affordable prices. Prices comparable to standard speculative operations, planned in absence of an architect or architecture. Modern architecture, originally conceived to provide quality for all social classes, has lost its true purpose by becoming the deceitful privilege of an elite.
Therefore it seems relevant to point out the need for a paradigm shift on how collective housing is built in Ticino. Low cost construction does not necessarily imply the simplistic moralism of cheap raw aesthetics, but the economy of a few inventive gestures. Standard and banal elements straight from the catalog, can be effortlessly modified or assembled in unexpected ways. Casa agli Orti was shaped from this process, gradually developing its own language, in tune with the raw neorealist beauty of the suburb.
While the internal central cores, slabs and pillars at the edges are entirely visible, pilasters and stringcourses reflect them on the exterior facade. Both interior partitions and exterior shell are constructed by lightweight plasterboard structures. The cladding of the facade panels is made of handcrafted ceramic tiles.
All around the building, between the raised vegetable beds cultivated by the tenants, a pebble rock garden is reminiscent of the nearby riverbank. With low water consumption, it is both sustainable and low maintenance.