A complex of farm buildings from a less than glorious period in Italy’s history is magically transformed. The result? A sophisticated yet kid-friendly retreat that seamlessly fuses historical influences with contemporary design.
This 1930s farmhouse on the coast of Tuscany is sited on a podere, land claimed from the low-lying salt marshes by the Fascist government in the early decades of the 20th century. The Dutch technique of “podering” the landscape refers to the process of creating a grid of levees and then draining the squares, which leaves a gridded farmscape with low, even ridges dividing it.
Clemente and her partners used the geometry of the podere as their guide for the house’s design, creating a glazed living room that is cleaved in half by a line (a hallway at one point, a wall in another) that connects visually and spatially with one of these old levees in the landscape. With Podere 43, the architects successfully emphasized and made visible the topography of the Tuscan landscape in the building itself.
An old grain silo in the backyard was transformed into a Turkish bath with mosaic tiles and a translucent ceiling, and the front yard was leveled to accommodate a grove of olive trees and space for morning yoga.
The ever-important Italian kitchen pours out through glass walls into the living room and onto the porch. A group of benches allows guests to hang out, drink wine, and pester the chef, while stainless-steel basins on rollers underneath give hungry kids easy access to snacks. Stainless-steel-and-glass shelving by the architects provides open storage for plates and glassware.
Labics took their design cues from the original structure’s history and function: The form of the industrial-looking double chimney, for example, was derived from an old stack placed on an adjacent farm. For the water feature, at right, a moat-like trench surrounding the house was dug to reduce humidity in the foundation.