An Alpine Home in Northern Italy Shows Off Picture-Perfect Valley Views
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An Alpine Home in Northern Italy Shows Off Picture-Perfect Valley Views

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By Lucy Wang
In a tiny Italian village, a holiday home offers a sleek and contemporary twist on the traditional alpine vernacular.

As co-owners of the renowned Le Vigne di Zamò winery, third-generation winemaker Silvano Zamò and his wife Brigitte know that wine is best enjoyed with a view. So, when the couple found a hilltop location in the tiny northern Italian village of Camporosso with picture-perfect valley views, they turned to Italian architecture firm GEZA to design a holiday home that would embrace the vistas and accommodate their love for entertaining.

"The approach path is one of the key points of the project. The arrival is a precise and inevitable sequence: the road climbs steeply, the house shows itself from afar in the middle of other buildings, then hides, and then reappears in a scenic perspective from the bottom where you can feel the whole size of the building," says GEZA.

"The approach path is one of the key points of the project. The arrival is a precise and inevitable sequence: the road climbs steeply, the house shows itself from afar in the middle of other buildings, then hides, and then reappears in a scenic perspective from the bottom where you can feel the whole size of the building," says GEZA.

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But the site’s panoramic views also came with complex terrain. The elevated location was challengingly steep, and the architects needed to carefully navigate a sharp rock-studded slope to create a well-anchored home that would feel like a fluid extension of the landscape, rather than an unsympathetic addition dropped onto the site.

The house is designed to step down the sloped site. Over time, the larch screens will develop a gray patina and create a cool contrast with the warm-toned interior wood.

The house is designed to step down the sloped site. Over time, the larch screens will develop a gray patina and create a cool contrast with the warm-toned interior wood.

The solution was to construct a stable concrete envelope split into two interconnected gabled volumes that step down the existing slope and frame views through east-facing glazed gable ends.

Deep roof overhangs not only protect the interior from direct sunlight, but also provide privacy.

Deep roof overhangs not only protect the interior from direct sunlight, but also provide privacy.

"This section achieves two objectives: one external and one internal," explain the architects. "From the outside, the house seems to ‘slip’ on the ground—the ground is inclined and fluid, and the house is light and does not impose terraces or other violent works on the landscape. From the inside, the volume of the living area is defined by an impressive exposed concrete roof, which follows the slanting of the two volumes with different heights. It seems to enter the mountain."

The view from the master bedroom towards the office and the front facade that frames Camporosso’s church and bell tower located in the heart of the valley.

The view from the master bedroom towards the office and the front facade that frames Camporosso’s church and bell tower located in the heart of the valley.

"The materials that make up the project reflect the basic ideas [for lightness]," adds the firm. "The construction is in concrete, but it is visible only inside. The exposed concrete floors and ceilings, suspended on glass facades, accentuate the lightness of the roof."

The sculptural concrete ceiling exposes the dramatic geometry of the gabled roofs. "The main challenge that characterized this project was the realization of two roofs side by side without any interior pillars," adds the firm.

The sculptural concrete ceiling exposes the dramatic geometry of the gabled roofs. "The main challenge that characterized this project was the realization of two roofs side by side without any interior pillars," adds the firm.

To further emphasize this sense of lightness, the architects extended the roof eaves and floors to create wraparound outdoor terraces surrounded by vertical larch sunshades.

The contemporary home's gabled roofline and timber materials are a nod to the traditional alpine vernacular.

The contemporary home's gabled roofline and timber materials are a nod to the traditional alpine vernacular.

The Z House's structure consists entirely of concrete. Wood screens wrap around the sides, and Prefa materials top the roof.

The Z House's structure consists entirely of concrete. Wood screens wrap around the sides, and Prefa materials top the roof.

"From the outside, the house is characterized by an external ‘skin’ made of wood, like many traditional alpine buildings," says the firm. "Today this facade loses the traditional functions related to agriculture and breeding, and becomes a sunbreak, a necessary element for solar control and energy efficiency. A fundamental architectural occasion."

The vertical larch elements are not uniformly placed around the house, note the architects. "The wooden blades have different orientations. They are sometimes rotated—the spacing is not constant. They open up to let you see, and they hide and hide. They condition the internal relationship between inside and outside, and so the light vibrates and changes constantly on the outer skin of the house. It is a subtle and iridescent vibration, with the light of the Alps."

The vertical larch elements are not uniformly placed around the house, note the architects. "The wooden blades have different orientations. They are sometimes rotated—the spacing is not constant. They open up to let you see, and they hide and hide. They condition the internal relationship between inside and outside, and so the light vibrates and changes constantly on the outer skin of the house. It is a subtle and iridescent vibration, with the light of the Alps."

Serizzo white granite flooring features in the outdoor wraparound terraces.

Serizzo white granite flooring features in the outdoor wraparound terraces.

The interior layout is designed to optimize views. The main living spaces, including the master bedroom and office, face the valley in the east, while the service rooms, garage, and entrance are tucked into the west side.

Large sliding glass doors provide a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors.

Large sliding glass doors provide a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors.

The entrance sequence begins with a short hallway located at the intersection of the two gabled volumes. This leads up to the spacious, open-plan Great Room with a double-height living area on the left and the dining room and kitchen on the right. Massive walls of glass slide back to connect the interior with the outdoor terrace, where uninterrupted views of the landscape can be enjoyed.

"The clients requested we use ‘cirmolo,’  a local type of wood with a strong fragrance capable of spreading healthy aromas around the house," say the architects. They used the timber, also known as Swiss pine, for accent walls and the majority of the custom furniture.

"The clients requested we use ‘cirmolo,’  a local type of wood with a strong fragrance capable of spreading healthy aromas around the house," say the architects. They used the timber, also known as Swiss pine, for accent walls and the majority of the custom furniture.

The dark kitchen creates a bold visual contrast with the nearby cirmolo wood wall. The kitchen countertops are slate, and the cabinets are dark gray-painted European oak.

The dark kitchen creates a bold visual contrast with the nearby cirmolo wood wall. The kitchen countertops are slate, and the cabinets are dark gray-painted European oak.

GEZA designed the custom dining table (which is nearly 12 feet in length) to meet the clients' desire for entertaining a large numbers of guests. A MOOOI Heracleum Endless lighting fixture hangs above.

GEZA designed the custom dining table (which is nearly 12 feet in length) to meet the clients' desire for entertaining a large numbers of guests. A MOOOI Heracleum Endless lighting fixture hangs above.

Above the living area, the master bedroom and office are positioned for the best views of the Camporosso church and bell tower. Two additional bedrooms are located in the basement, which also houses the sauna and wellness area.

A glass-walled bridge links the master bedroom with the office on the upper floor. The layout creates a double-height space for the living area and keeps the drama of the exposed concrete ceiling visible from the ground floor.

A glass-walled bridge links the master bedroom with the office on the upper floor. The layout creates a double-height space for the living area and keeps the drama of the exposed concrete ceiling visible from the ground floor.

"The most dramatic part of the project is the section of the roof with the compluvium that signals the division of the living room into two parts," explain the architects. "The lightness of the section-line, together with the heaviness of the concrete, creates an unexpected sensation for those who enter the large living room for the first time."

The complexity of the very steep, rock-studded site was a big challenge for the architects. Here is an image of the west side of the house, where the service areas,  garage, and entrance are located.

The complexity of the very steep, rock-studded site was a big challenge for the architects. Here is an image of the west side of the house, where the service areas, garage, and entrance are located.

A view of the Z House illuminated at night.

A view of the Z House illuminated at night.

Z House upper floor plan

Z House upper floor plan

Z House ground floor plan

Z House ground floor plan

Z House basement floor plan

Z House basement floor plan

Z House section

Z House section

Related Reading: 18 Real-Life Monopoly Houses That Are Winning the Game, Alpine Noir Is a Cozy, Modern Ski Chalet at the Foot of Mount Hood 

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: GEZA Gri e Zucchi Architettura / @gezaarchitetti

Builder/General Contractor: Impresa Edile Pellegrini & C

Structural & Civil Engineer: Alessandro D'Agostino

Landscape Design/Lighting Design/Interior Design: GEZA

Mechanical Design: HT Engineering 

Electrical Design: Studio Battista 

Mechanical Plans: Astel Srl 

Electrical Plans: Elettrotecnica Manzanese 

Carpentry: Malisan Franco & C snc 

Furniture and Boiserie: Floreani Snc