Roccia, which translates to “rock” in Italian, is a former hilltop monastery transformed into a farmhouse nestled in the heart of the Piedmontese countryside. Sadly, it fell into disrepair following a fire in the early 20th century, and decades of neglect allowed the bricks to deteriorate further while nature, in the form of moss, ivy, and saplings, reclaimed the space. Its current state evokes the visionary concept of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an 18th-century artist who viewed the ruins of Rome as a foundation for the city of the future.
CRA’s intervention meticulously preserves the delicate balance between the natural and the artificial, breathing new life into the aged structure without severing its intimate connection with the ancient bricks and foliage. This modern intervention primarily comprises prefabricated wooden components seamlessly inserted into the worn brick walls. The two houses, constructed centuries apart, now share a symbiotic relationship with each other and with the surrounding natural environment. The project was spearheaded by CRA Make, the digital innovation arm of the studio, and is set to reach completion in 2024.
“I have always been inspired by John Ruskin, and his idea that the decay of buildings should not be reversed. Like him, I admire the ‘deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity,’” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of MIT Senseable City Lab. “Our project embraces the decaying of Roccia, and add a new digitally-fabricated layer to make a tree-filled ruin inhabitable.”
“Through a research process implemented with cloud scanning technologies, we developed a framework that aligns with the specific form of the house and the surrounding landscape,” adds Mykola Murashko, chief technology officer of CRA-Make. “This will become the backbone of Maestro, a company under the CRA group focusing on digital fabrication at every scale from buildings to neighborhoods.”
Informed by an evolutionary approach, CRA has adopted a diverse range of design strategies to restore buildings of varying ages and conditions, making them once again suitable for habitation while celebrating their rich histories. For instance, the Pankhasari Retreat project combines technology-driven solutions with local craftsmanship to envision a co-living and co-working complex in the Indian Himalayas. In AGO Modena, a joint effort with architect Italo Rota and artist-engineer Chuck Hoberman, CRA transforms an 18th-century hospital into a cultural space featuring a reversible, origami-shaped kinetic roof above the courtyard.