Just how easily can modern wooden architecture blend into existing environments, even when neighboring buildings are historic and traditionally styled? When they’re designed with thoughtfulness and sensitivity, new buildings with contrasting design styles can actually augment the beauty of any given area. While materials like concrete, steel and prefabricated elements might appear too harsh or out of step, wood benefits from being an organic material, making the results feel like equal parts nature and architecture.
Casa Gianín, a church in the Zoldo Valley of the Italian Dolomites, stands as a perfect example. Completed by Italian architecture studio Clinicaurbana in 2015, the house is part of a larger repair project on a series of deteriorating structures in the area. The rustic buildings in the village of Coi had seen better days, some beginning to buckle or collapse after many decades. The architects wanted to create something new that would honor the vernacular architecture and help preserve disappearing ways of life without attempting to recreate historic styles.
Their approach incorporates an old stone building into a new, three-family house that fuses modern aesthetics with charming Alpine looks. The existing buildings “make a substantial contribution to the appearance of a typical man-made Alpine environment,” they explain. They eliminated all recent additions and renovations of the buildings and restored it to its status as a significant landmark for the village.
The use of vertical wood for the exterior isn’t unusual in the area, but its application here – along with latticework openings – still looks fresh and modern thanks to the use of narrow planks and pale wood sourced locally. Inside, the original stone walls are set against walls made of new materials. Matching wooden window frames and balconies on the adjoining stone building give the complex a cohesive appearance.
“Concern for sustainability not only covered the material aspects, for example by making use of low-impact construction technology, but also the entire construction process, including socio-cultural aspects and the promotion of traditional local craft skills.”