The Old House: when architecture bears fruit
July 7, 2016
The Old House is the product of a fascinating redevelopment project led by Kengo Kuma, who showcases all his trademark sensitivity when tackling traditional features. Located in the Casalgrande Padana production complex, the pre-existing building - a disused farmhouse typical of those found in the countryside around Reggio Emilia - had been left behind in the wake of the industrial transformations undergone by the local area. Yet it has now been completely restored and redeveloped to serve as a historic archive for Casalgrande Padana and accommodate exhibitions, meetings and cultural events. The building - and the garden that surrounds it - exists in harmony with the nearby Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud, a spectacular landmark also designed by Kuma.
For the Old House project, Kuma drew on the vast range of porcelain stoneware products manufactured by Casalgrande Padana. One of these was Bianco Assoluto from the Unicolore collection, which he had previously deployed for the Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud project. Bianco Assoluto was used for the interior areas which see the most use, including the Hall, the Old Tile Room, the stairs and the Projection Room, in addition to the outdoor pedestrian areas and the external square. Meanwhile, the Bronzo colour from the Metalwood collection was used for tiling in the rooms set aside for viewing documents, the relaxation area and the stairs connecting the two.
Unicolore Bianco Assoluto
Ceramics bring lightness to the Japanese garden
The careful, understated project that restored the Old House’s volume, functionality and stability while broadening its possibilities for use was not limited to the house itself. It also incorporated the space around the building, creating a visual and virtual link between the company's production complex and the surrounding landscape. Outside, an unusual tiling design using porcelain stoneware tiles in the Bianco Assoluto colour provides a sort of guided path around the Old House, lined with plants and rows of fruit trees set out in an espalier structure.
In 2016, the garden of the Old House won the Brand&Landscape Award 2016, which is organised by the National Council of Architects, Planners, Landscape Architects and Restorers in collaboration with the international magazine PAYSAGE TOPSCAPE. This was the reasoning given for the award: “The virtuous integration of architecture and landscape, within industrial areas and spaces. A way of promoting a new vision of places of work, production, research.”
The Old House really does tick all the boxes for the award. The main bulk of the house cleverly interacts with the external spaces, which include an orchard set out in the espalier structure, with over 170 apple trees planted in a sunburst pattern to make the CCCloud the visual centre of the complex. Meanwhile, the porcelain stoneware tiles - in the Bianco Assoluto colour with a non-slip finish - that make up the external walkways never actually touch, and instead are positioned a short distance away from each other, creating the impression that the ceramic products are hovering on the gravel. It's a feature that fuels the comparisons with Japanese gardens and increases the feeling of lightness so synonymous with the work of Kuma.
Unicolore Bianco Assoluto