by Pallavi MehraJan 19, 2023
Design does not necessarily involve the creation of something new from scratch; oftentimes, it denotes the process of reinterpreting an entity that already stands. Ergo, design, in such cases, is a medium of (re)defining what a space narrates—animating it with new life and meshing stories into its very fabric. After all, the role of designers, transcending what one sees, taps into the territories of profound thought to evoke solicited emotions. But most importantly, design represents its users in essence—their lives, persona, inclinations and memories. In this residential project, the travel adventures of the client breathe life into the atmosphere of an attic permeated with natural light.
Stories reside at the crux of the projects by Italian architecture and interior design studio Network of Architecture (NOA). Their oeuvre recurrently reveals a propensity for building narratives—imbibing a place’s history, its eccentricities, and atmospheres. For a client who, for 20 years, travelled across Asia and Oceania, NOA creates an interior design redolent of the traversed lands. Titled Omarama, which means 'space of light' in the language of the Māori, the penthouse marks the occasion of the client’s return to Innsbruck, Austria. NOA takes cues from her fascinating story and transforms a muted attic into a home that combines Alpine atmospheres with distant worlds—a serendipitous congruity between the studio’s expertise and the client's exciting history.
Twenty years spent in England, Singapore, New Zealand and many other countries mesh with a top-floor flat bathed in light and the silhouette of the Alps in the backdrop to lay the foundation of the project. "Each of our designs unfolds a story. In this work, an additional personal aspect was brought into play, namely the memories of a life that the client carried with her," says Lukas Rungger, founder of NOA. “Paintings, statues and handcrafted objects needed to be displayed in an enhancing setting,” he adds.
Founded by Stefan Rier and Lukas Rungger in Bolzano, Italy, in 2010, for NOA, architecture and design are pursuits of the profound and are fortified by their client relationships. Every project begins with an honest tête à tête that aims to not only understand the site but also allow the designers to be privy to the client’s identity, desires and passions. Defying typologies, scales and budgets, each project is a unique representation of diverse perspectives. Craftsmanship and technology come together to create a design that is experimental, all the while being respectful to the tenets of environmental, social and economic sustainability. These values that constitute the studio’s ethos are conspicuous in Omarama, its name symbolizing the client’s close connection with the Māori, the indigenous population of New Zealand.
The quadrangular space of 135 sqm became the reference point for the concept of the residential design. The interior designers started from the floor plan of the flat with a central block for the service area and the staircase leading to the roof terrace. The three-sided orientation of the large windows and the possibility of different functions flowing seamlessly in the U-shaped space allowed NOA to arrange the living stations corresponding to the trajectory of the sun. In the east, the morning rays illuminate the entrance where a small office area with a desk and bookcase is also positioned. To the south-east, a comfortable corner sofa is the protagonist of the living area while two freestanding kitchen blocks fill the space to the south. As the begins its descent, the warm light of dusk envelopes the dining table for eight, positioned to the southwest. Two bedrooms on the west of the flat complete the layout. Natural light comes forth as the central element in the design; hence the unanimous choice of the flat's name: Omarama.
The interiors are clad in a colour palette stripped down to the essential: black and white, with saffron yellow as the accent colour. The furnishings abide by a purist geometry and culminate in an elegant ambience evocative of Asian atmospheres, especially in the lamp designs and the oak wood panelling. "We wanted to employ dark tones, using black quartzite, painted oak, and metal. Through the use of wooden slats, we have darkened the walls, transforming the room into a backdrop with a suffused atmosphere where only the Alps and a few selected objects are at the centre of attention," shares interior designer Niccolò Panzani.
The furniture designs that populate the space include the Tufty-Time sofa by B&B Italia, the black leather chairs from the Era Chair collection by Living Divani, the saffron nubuck leather chairs from the Gemma collection by Baxter, the Paper Pendant rice paper lamps by vipp and the Hat lamps by Aromas del Campo. The surfaces exhibit a contrast: black 'Noirblanc' quartzite by Antolini is used for the kitchen top, the bar cabinet, and the coffee table, while for the dining table, the designers utilise white ‘Montblanc' quartzite by Favorita. White also makes an appearance in the bathrooms’ surfaces, where tiles from Botteganove's Flora collection reproduce large Polynesian palm leaves as in a macro photograph. The three nón lá, the conical straw hats, the large Indian painting in the dining area, and the statue from Myanmar of the warrior with the umbrella are the finishing elements of a home.
Design is a language that amalgamates many—one of the creator, one of the user, and vestiges of the numerous experiences that both have lived through. Omarama becomes home to not only the countless stories the client has accumulated over the years of her expeditions, but also NOA’s knack for weaving narratives in unexpected ways. With the spirit of a traveller channelling through its walls, the hands of diverse creatives delineating its selfhood, souvenirs, and expressions from distant countries refusing to be shackled by geography, Omarama is a home that looks far beyond the mountains of Innsbruck.