FROM BARN TO MOUNTAIN SHELTER
In the Valle di Gares a few kilometres from Canale d’Agordo in the province of Belluno we find the mountain village of Gares, at an altitude of 1,380 metres, surrounded by imposing peaks of the Dolomites such as the Civetta, Cima Pale, Pale di San Martino and Marmolada. In this valley we can fortunately still find examples of ancient rural mountain architecture, still intact. Next to the local church stands the barn that is undergoing restructuring work.
The ground floor is a stone base with angolari that extend as far as the first level (?) to support the wooden framework braced with tavolato di tamponamento. The building has a trussed roof that was once most probably a shingle roof. It stands on a slight slope, slightly below ground level, and is divided into three levels: the entrance to the stall faces down the valley, while the hayloft, on two levels, faces up towards the mountain.
All the outside wooden boarding, with its original windows, has been preserved, as also the stone of the ground floor. Inside, a new structure has been created, composed of pillars and steel girders with new walls, in compliance with anti-seismic norms and regulations. The aim of the project was to preserve the character of the building with modern solutions and materials, in a dialogue of past and present. The living quarters have been spread over three floors. The original proportions of the spaces have been kept and we have tried to preserve them as much as possible. Only in the night zone was it necessary to break up the space with dividing walls, which were distributed in such a way as not to conceal the original characteristics of the wood roofing, and of the hayloft. The views from inside have been improved with modern planning solutions. In the area reserved for the day zone two large full-wall windows have been inserted which open out on the landscape outside. The shutters have been made from the original boards of the walls of the hayloft, and have kept the shafts of light coming in through the open cracks in the boards. The shutters, when they are closed, are one with the original composition of the external boards, whereas, when they are open, they allow the daylight to come flooding in. On the outside, the window shutters fit flush without any visible joins with the vertical surface of the wooden boards. The walls of the living room have been covered with rough larch boards, to give a rustic atmosphere, while in order to emphasize the theme of the “fireplace”, a fundamental traditional element, the wall with the stove has been covered with sheets of corten steel. The use of corten steel, even if it is completely extraneous to the rural architecture of the past, has a correspondence with iron, which, as opposed to wood or stone, was used above all as an accessory element: the rust colour of corten steel reflects the colours of certain aspects of mountain scenery. Furthermore, corten made it possible to build a stair with a folding sheet of minimum thickness, in this way resolving the problem of height between the vertical connection flights without reducing the space reserved for living purposes. The choice of copper netting for the stair parapet draws its inspiration from architectural details from mountain houses and the rural mountain environment. The “new” materials used are different but work with tradition, without prevailing over what came before. In the night zone the wooden walls of the rooms are in line with the outside, especially when the doors are closed, as these are made of larchwood boards, similar to the outside covering of the barn. To make room for the bathroom, with all its accessories, the height of the staircase was exploited: a plane supported by an iron structure stands on the floor and is connected to the wall to support the bathtub. The connection between the bathtub plane and the washbasin was resolved with a single slab of stone that serves as a unifying element. The position of the bathtub and washbasin lead the gaze towards the view outside. On the ground floor, at one time used as the stall, in order to avoid dividing up the surface available and to satisfy the requirements of the owners, who wanted a spacious living area, the services unit was cut into the hill. In the bathroom the red cement washbasin takes on an unusual shape, monumental, heavy as stone which contrasts with the proportions of the building, but which finds a correspondence with the alpine scenery outside. Mountains are also the monumental, the grandiose, the essential, the intensity of colours. The room that faces down below was made with the use of grey slate for the flooring, and plaster with a scratch-coat finish for the walls. The staircase that goes from the ground floor to the day zone is of larch wood; as we go up we can see the landscape outside through the living-room windows. Everything creates an atmosphere in line with the place and tradition.