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Director's house, Italy, Liverani/Molteni architects

Highly Commended: An irregular cruciform plan tactfully navigates a landscape of mature pine trees

This house for a film director and his family in Casatenovo, near Milan, occupies a site studded with mature pine trees within a 1960s residential development. The brief was for a building that should respond to the setting and be robustly low maintenance.

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A nodal living space unites wings containing bedrooms. Nature forms a perpetual backdrop to domestic life

The single-storey house radiates out from a central core, which forms its social and physical hub. This common space yokes together the various rooms and functions, such as the sleeping quarters clustered in separate wings, and the entrance hall and kitchen.

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Connecting this pivotal living space more explicitly with the exterior, tall glass doors can be opened up to encourage natural ventilation. The hub thus becomes a diffuse indoor/outdoor realm. The house tactfully navigates around the mature landscape.

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Its irregular cruciform plan was developed in response to the position of the existing trees. Walls and roof are sheathed in a durable and waterproof white resin membrane, which visually homogenises the structure, yet an almost imperceptibly double-pitched roof simultaneously creates a series of different elevations that subtly change from every angle.

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The very slight inclination of the roof (7 degrees) directs rainwater flow along the walls to collect in a ground reservoir, obviating the need for unsightly gutters and downpipes. The immaculate white resin surface will weather gently over time, with nature adding its own contribution, as leaves and pine needles accumulate on the roof.

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The connection with nature is enhanced by changing vistas as you perambulate around the house. Interiors are calm, luminous spaces, perpetually framed by a backdrop of greenery.

The jury was impressed by the subtlety and sophistication of the architecture. Unifying the cruciform structure, the white resin carapace combines functional rigour and aesthetic delight. The nuances of the relationship between built form and site are beautifully and cogently expressed, and the house strives to tread lightly in its bucolic setting.

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Fact File

Architect: Liverani/Molteni Architetti
Photographs: Walter Mair

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