by Jerry ElengicalJan 26, 2022
On the grounds of a 550-acre farm in South Tyrol, Italy, noa*: Network of Architecture, founded by Lukas Rungger and Stefan Rier, have devised and implemented an ambitious hospitality design intervention in the form of a wellness hotel dubbed ‘Aeon’. Composed of a pair of gabled, timber-clad forms that reference local vernacular architecture, the development is nestled into a picturesque natural setting featuring sprawling meadows and woods, in full view of the Dolomite mountains and Merano Alps. The two structures, in a sense, sequester functional spaces into private and public zones, with the former consisting of a residential wing hosting 15 suites, and the latter realised as a supplementary block that contains the reception, bistro, bar, and wellness area.
The project was originally commissioned by the Ramoser family - who are also the proprietors of the nearby Lobishof guesthouse, described as the archetype of an ideal synergy between an old inn, residential house, and a traditional barn. To this end, the façade design of both buildings play with paradigms of rustic traditionality and contemporary refinement, as a means of paying heed to the region’s architectural heritage. Juxtaposing gabled roofs and chimney-like protrusions, with floor-to-ceiling windows and glass balconies, noa* has crafted a statement that bears hints of a postmodern outlook towards contextually sensitive design, through its reinterpretation of the local design language. The jagged corners and reinforced slanted elements of the development’s façade projections evoke traditional struts and brackets while also morphing to create varying aesthetic remarks from different perspectives. For instance, the east and west edifices of the two blocks are replete with rhythm and movement, underscored by glimmering trapezoidal windows, while the slatted roof structure wraps around the northern and southern faces to channel a homogenous materiality. Both buildings also use timber which has been sourced primarily from the farm’s own wooded areas.
Regarding the fundamental principles behind the project, architect Christian Rottensteiner of noa* mentions that “the creation of an ambivalent tension between the centuries-old tradition of the rural complex and an exclusively modern statement was the basic principle underlying the design process”. Interestingly, this tension is both enhanced and partially resolved by the openness of the clearing that separates the structures - whose arrangement forms a sort of extended courtyard typology, allowing the landscape design to flow through the zone and escape any sort of confinement.
As testament to their practice of complementing contexts rather than intruding into them, noa* elected to immerse the buildings into the surrounding terrain, even accounting for the gently sloping topography. Furthermore, the firm used the natural landscape to create an innovative hallway to link the blocks - carefully concealed beneath an artificial hill. Christian Rottensteiner elaborates, “Verticality and linearity are the leitmotivs of two strongly contrasting design approaches – at times creating the feeling of floating between worlds. While ‘slope’ is traditionally an element for load transfer and static reinforcement, here it was used to make the volume more dynamic and to merge it with the landscape."
Dressed in black steel, the hotel’s entry portal is decorated with the family’s coat of arms, which dates back to the 15th century, according to the architects. Beyond this point, visitors are confronted by an interior design scheme that is defined by a horizontal dichotomy expressed through colour. While a pale beige tone imparts delicateness and familiarity, it is contrasted by a mystical shade of blue that conveys an air of mystery and uncertainty. Sweeping through both the buildings, this dramatic division of spatial environments has been implemented along both vertical and horizontal axes, and it serves to highlight noa*’s exploration of liminal states - at the threshold between two divergent phases. In fact, the hotel’s location is itself, a fair illustration of this train of thought - being both elevated and within reach of the clouds, but also rooted firmly into the ground.
Within the public building, this chromatic transition occurs at a height of 1.6 m - nearly at the eye level for an average viewer. The reception and lobby area in this block hosts a discreet desk, flowing into a multifunctional space with a uniquely detailed bar at its heart. In its vicinity, wine displays, bistro tables, and a panoramic parlour help define the zone’s programmatic versatility. Vast windows allow nature into the interior, which also accommodates a lounge area with a mirrored fireplace and ceiling, alongside a reading corner with hanging sofas.
On the floor above, the colour scheme is turned on its head, with the blue section moving to the bottom, as a representation of water. A relaxation space and wide open terrace open up beyond the fruit bar and drinking fountain within this functional area. Perhaps its most attractive feature is the partially-covered infinity pool which projects from the building’s southwestern face - blessed with scintillating views of the nearby landscape. Just above this area is a private hall for relaxation that can double as a space for yoga and meditation, overlooking a rooftop terrace whirlpool that offers stunning vistas of the Dolomites. Below it, an anteroom containing a drinking fountain and shower facilities permits access to the Finnish sauna and steam bath facilities.
Comprising three floors, the residential block houses 15 suites. Within the subterranean corridor connecting both buildings, the border between the dual colour scheme shifts from the previously horizontal dimension to a vertical one. The architects explain this treatment in a press statement, “There is a deliberate psychological effect in play here, because from here on you can immerse your whole body in the respective area, which has an overall relaxing effect." As part of its program, this structure hosts three types of rooms, the first of which is the 35 sqm Junior suite. Opening into a 15 sqm terrace or balcony, the décor within these spaces is characterised by freestanding wash basins, open showers, private bars, and lounges. Junior suites located on the ground floor also have their own private whirlpools. Alternatively, the larger rooms, measuring 55 sqm each, boast an extra living room with a double bed, overlooking panoramic views of the nearby mountains. Finally, the pinnacle of luxury design and comfort among this assortment of rooms is the Gallery suite, structured as a loft-like space that features an internal staircase which extends up to the living area above. On this level, guests can enjoy views of the overhead sky from openings in the roof.
Around a third of the surface area inside the suites is coloured blue, with the remaining two-thirds reveal beige tones. The designers also covered the enclosing surfaces of these spaces in fabric, to negate their perception as walls, creating a haptic uncertainty that builds tension, arouses curiosity, and invites users on a journey of discovery - all vital facets of Aeon’s architectural DNA. Through their intervention, noa* has cultivated a new set of experiences that reflect a contemporary spirit - multifaceted and laden with interesting propositions - upon a site that has been a torchbearer for an enduring hospitality tradition.
Location: Soprabolzano, South Tyrol (Italy)
Client: Ramoser Family
Area: 3157 sqm
Architecture: noa* network of architecture
Interior Design: noa* network of architecture
Year of Completion: 2021