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24/11/2021 | ARCHITECTURE

THE HOUSE AROUND THE FICUS SIGNED RATTI-ROTA

Posted by: Silvia Zanni

"Man is a biophilic animal" one could say paraphrasing Aristotle. Also, adding: «who in 2021 lives around a ficus» . The idea of Carlo Ratti – Carlo Ratti Associati based in Turin, New York and London – and Italo Rota – Italo Rota and Partners in Milan – of a house developing around a tree became the project for the private home of Francesco Mutti, CEO of Mutti Italia, which is located in the heart of the so-called Food Valley, just 100 m from the company of its owner.

We are located in Montechiarugolo, a town of 10,000 inhabitants in the Parma area, which for the beauty of its paths and its castle was included in 2020 list of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Here, since 1899 the king of passata is based, the Mutti company.
In 2018, Francesco Mutti promoted a competition for the recovery of an old farmhouse with a granary, a brick structure immersed in the countryside just a few steps from his company. His aim was to make it «a home for people, plants and animals»: all around a garden enhances the biodiversity of this particularly rich area of Italy, also hosting a managery of animals. Today there are dogs, cats, even a monkey. In the photos one can often recognize Piero, the donkey of the Mutti family, captured while wandering around the house.
The Ratti-Rota duo has thus created "the Greenary", a residence that, starting from the green-granary pun, rethinks the relationship between nature and technique. If, quoting a past interview of Ratti for our atsuperstudiomagazine: «the future belongs to the curious by definition», the two, prompted by the curiosity of the future, examined at Mutti’s house contemporary trends. First of all, the core of the project is the idea that the human being is a "biophilic" organism, that is, he spontaneously seeks – as a biological need – closeness to nature. Like an ancient Roman domus, the house is organized around a "green" element, in this case Alma, a ficus naturalis, which is the supporting structure of the building. Alma represents twenty-first century nature as a technical element. Recalling the classical anecdote of the painter Zeusi who deceives birds by painting truthful grape seeds, the tree brings earth, roots and branches in the house but is forced to depend on technology to live: a very advanced technology creates a microclimate necessary for the life of the fig tree, regulating its water levels, temperature and pressure. On a symbolic level, then, Alma embodies the spirit of the house – as if it were an ancient Roman household god – dictating the rhythm of domestic existence and, at the same time, marking its architecture. Around the10 m of the tree’s height seven terraced floors develop, each with its own specific view and experience of the plant. Each floor welcomes and has a specific housing function: music, conviviality, lunch, meditation, reading and rest. The stairs are partially made from the local earth, some elements out of resin. A direct connection links the personal history of the patron, to the fields, and the factory, in short it binds art to nature. What is the border?

Alma, the ficus naturalis, working as supporting element of the architecture designed by Ratti-Rota, courtesy Carlo Ratti Associati
View on The Greenary from the house garden, courtesy Carlo Ratti Associati
View on the stairs leading to the house private studio, courtesy Carlo Ratti Associati
View on the ficus from the mezzanine floor, courtesy Carlo Ratti Associati

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