The Greenary - CRA Designs House Around a Tree

The Greenary: CRA Designs House Around a Tree

Carlo Ratti Associati has unveiled the Greenary, a renovated farmhouse designed around a 10-meter-high Ficus tree growing within the main living area. The Greenary will be built in the countryside close to Parma, Northern Italy as a private residence. The project is the first step of CRA's winning master plan for Mutti tomato company, which strives to integrate nature and the built environment.

The Greenary is not a tree-house or a house on a tree, but a house designed around a tree. Life unfolds in sync with a 50-year old Ficus, a perennial tropical plant housed in the middle of the farmhouse's south hall. All around the tree, a sequence of interconnected rooms creates six domestic spaces - three above the entrance, three below it - each of them dedicated to a specific activity: practicing yoga, listening to music, reading, eating together, sharing a drink, and keeping a wine cellar and storing dry cured ham for aging. Each space is at a different level of the tree, a 3-dimensional sequence that follows Adolf Loos' principle of Raumplan.

The project starts from the spiritual symbolism of the Ficus tree, whose various species are revered in many parts of the world: the Ficus religiosa is venerated by Buddhists as the Bodhi tree, under which Siddhartha achieved enlightenment, while the Ficus microcarpa adorns the ancient parks of Guangzhou in China. The plant is well-suited for indoor living conditions, as it enjoys stable temperatures all year long. To create the ideal setting for the tree to thrive, CRA has completely redesigned the old farmhouse to maximize natural light through a 10-meter-high south-facing glass wall.

"We wanted the design to reflect our innate 'biophilia,' the natural impulse to connect with other forms of life, as put forward by the great Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson," said Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA practice and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "With the Greenary, we are trying to imagine a new domestic landscape built around the rhythm of nature."

"Inhabiting each of the rooms will be a bit like inhabiting a tree," added Andrea Cassi, Project Manager at CRA, talking about the South hall. "As the project breaks down traditional separations between rooms and floors, the Ficus becomes the organizing principle of a contemporary interpretation of the Raumplan for the age of BIM. Every level provides a different perspective on nature."

Images: Courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati

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