A Sculptural Home in the Dolomite Mountains Frames a Majestic Silver Fir

A Sculptural Home in the Dolomite Mountains Frames a Majestic Silver Fir

By Lucy Wang
In a spectacular South Tyrol valley, Plasma Studio designs an L-shaped home that blends traditional elements with contemporary design.

Finding affordable property in Italy’s stunning South Tyrol region is no easy task, as Andrea Holzer and her husband Roland Graf can attest. The couple spent years searching for the right site to realize their longtime dream—a family home designed by Plasma Studio, an international architectural practice renowned for its dynamic work. When they finally found an affordable plot at the edge of a commercial area in the Gsies Valley, Andrea reached out to Plasma Studio Partner Ulla Hell with the happy news.

Located in the valley and commune of Gsies, House L is surrounded by mountains and dense forests.

"At first glance, the site might not have seemed ideal," says Hell, noting the property’s proximity to the main road and the neighboring buildings that mainly consist of workshops for builders and carpenters. "But the plot’s generous size opened up the possibility of a large garden, and its location in a terrain sink provided visual and acoustic protection from the main road."

Using the sloped terrain to their advantage, the architects crafted an L-shaped home that frames a central garden with an existing silver fir as a focal point. The home—named House L after its shape—was strategically placed parallel to a small access road to shield the garden from its neighbors.

An old silver fir became a focal point in the design and guided the shape and orientation of House L.

The firm’s knack for turning site constraints into design solutions is also apparent in their response to local building regulations that mandated the inclusion of a pitched roof to match the local architecture. "We experimented with the pitched roof so that the house appears differently when viewed from each side," says Hell. "It was also important to pass the experience of the inclined roof to the interiors."

When viewed from the access road, House L echoes the local vernacular with its pitched, shed-like form.

When viewed from the rear, the home’s sculptural shape becomes more apparent. "At first sight, the requested pitched roof is not recognizable," say the architects. "Only if seen in direct elevation, from above or experienced from inside in section it is visible and gives a spatial tension to the whole."

Dark gray accents provide contrast to the predominate use of larch and pine inside the home.

To emphasize the home’s form and to evoke the nearby forests, the architects clad the building in locally sourced rough-sawn larch. Local larch was also extensively used in the interiors.

"Larch is a local, very durable wood," notes Hell. "The clients own a forest, so we sourced some wood from their forests. As seen in the interiors, larch is a soft and warm wood with big tactile qualities. In the bedrooms, we used stone pine—also from the clients’ own forest—because it’s said to help support regular heart rhythms when sleeping."

The canopy and balcony at the east and west facades are made of galvanized black steel.

"The north and south facades are set back in relation to the wood paneling so that they are perceived as framing."

The architects designed the home so that it can be extended toward the south without altering the landscape.

Sustainability was also a guiding design principle for the home—it was constructed with local materials and labor sourced from within a radius of 15 kilometers. Engineered to meet Klimahaus A standards, House L features an airtight envelope with triple-glazed windows and fiber wood insulation. Passive solar orientation and a geothermal system with controlled ventilation reduce the 2,350-square-foot home’s energy demands.

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"The parts of the building used at daytime are positioned at the northern access level of the site," explain the architects. "These ground floor living areas are preceded by generous covered terraces on the garden side."

The kitchen is located on the east side to receive morning light, while the living room to the west takes advantage of the afternoon and evening light.

The biggest challenge was the very short design timeline. "But because we were already familiar with the clients’ needs and habits, and due to the clients’ trust in us, we were able to finish relatively quickly," says Hell, who has known Andrea for years.

Since Andrea is a food photographer with a passion for cooking, the architects made the kitchen the most important room in the house. The kitchen has direct access to the garden, where Andrea grows herbs and vegetables.

Plasma Studio designed the custom dining table. The chairs are by Arper, and the lights are by Flos.

"The whole area around the kitchen under the inclined roof, the access to the garden, and the view of the fireplace are my favorite parts of the project," says Hell. "I also like how the facade continues onto the roof, and how the building’s L shape frames a view of the garden and the old beautiful silver fir in the center."

House L site plan

House L basement floor plan

House L ground floor plan

House L first floor plan

House L east and west elevations

House L north and south elevations

House L section

More from Plasma Studio:

This Green-Roofed Hotel in the Italian Alps Seems to Rise From the Earth

An Angular, Copper-Clad Apartment Building in Italy

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Plasma Studio / @plasma_studio 

Builder/General Contractor: Burgerbau

Structural Engineer/Civil Engineer: Team 4, Ing. Klaus Seeber

Landscape/Lighting/Interior Design: Plasma Studio

Cabinetry Design/Installation: Haidacher

Hard Flooring: Moling

Windows: Tecno Fenster

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