Industrial Pied-à-Terre in Italy

Industrial Pied-à-Terre in Italy

Minimal space meets maximum durability in a beautifully sparse Turin apartment.

The architects at R3Architetti were given a unique challenge when they started work on what would become the 3 Vaults apartment. Not only were they tasked with creating a vacation home for a woman who wanted to use it during occasional visits to see family in Turin, then rent it on Airbnb the rest of the year, but they also needed to actually find an apartment to renovate and build most of the interior from scratch. After settling on a three-room unit in an old building near the River Dora, they stripped down the space, utilizing recovered pipes, industrial light fixtures, and naked concrete walls to create an "indoor landscape" that would be durable despite the limited budget while appealing to a range of travelers. By splitting the low wall between two vaults, they shifted the apartment's orientation, creating a diagonal line reinforced with sharp edges and custom woodwork. "In Italian, three vaults has a double meaning, three times and three vaults," says Alexandru Popescu. "It was a small space, so we broke a big wall to open up the three rooms." Dwell spoke with Popescu and fellow architect Gian Nicola Ricci about how they infused the 645-square-foot space with a sparse sense of Italian industrialism.

"It was supposed to be as naked as possible," says Alexandru Popescu, one of the members of R3Architetti who helped design and build the 3 Vaults apartment. "The furniture is absolutely included in the architecture; it’s more like an indoor landscape instead of a typical open plan." The kitchen exemplifies their approach, with textured concrete walls contrasting with wood panels and salvaged industrial lighting. The table, custom built by R3Architetti, is made in part from pipes procured from one of their fathers, a plumber.


Filled with crisp lines and textural contrasts, the interior plan widens the small apartment by setting it apart, creating alcoves, living spaces, and sculptural dimension within the open white space.


While R3 wanted to build a seemingly unbreakable space by utilizing heavy materials such as the zinc-coated pipes on the wall, the interior also offers built-in comforts, like the small table space and wraparound sofa built. Custom casework reduces clutter in the small space and humanizes the angular interior.

A panorama shows how highlights within the interior landscape define different sections of the apartment, almost a color-coded progression from work to dining to rest.

Framed by planes of wood, as well as a large pair of windows, the entryway exudes warmth.

Despite the cast-on-site concrete dividers, there's still an airy sense of space; the dividers support, instead of overwhelm. This approach came from the architects' constant sense of experimentation and playfulness, a deliberate approach that helped them find new ways to use recycled and salvaged materials.

While the aesthetic was meant to convey a blank slate, historical touches abound inside. Pipes were restored from Gian Nicola Ricci's father's plumbing company, industrial lights from an old second-hand store found a new life, and outside of a few IKEA pieces, the furniture was all custom-built, mostly from salvaged material.

A fading ceiling was preserved in the bedroom. Clear resin was applied to the blue and green pigments to freeze and preserve the aging wall.

The subdivided apartment initially lacked storage capacity. Slide-out drawers under the bed, as well as placing the television in what was formerly the fireplace, helped stretch the space to make the apartment more livable.


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