Siracusa, Italy 2012
Principals: Andrea Di Stefano, Aleksandra Jaeschke
Team: Salvo Pappalardo
Renderings: Massimo D’Aiello
Engineering: Daniele Catania
I Ramarri are terraced houses located at the highest point of the Maddalena Peninsula that encircles the Siracusa harbour in the north and the Plemmirio Bay in the south. The buildings rise up from a rocky terrain turning their back on the other buildings to open up from a natural terrace onto a vast agrarian landscape of unique beauty. Enjoying spectacular sunsets, the houses look onto the natural harbour of Siracusa in the north, with Mount Etna in the background, and, in the south-west, onto the open sea and the bays that succeed one another all the way down to Capo Passero, the southernmost tip of Sicily.
Each of the five houses, living prototypes organized following an ascending spiral, makes the most of its unique point of view, differentiating itself from the contiguous one to thus abandon the traditional concept of the terraced-house typology. Together they form a series of singular cases and transcend any reference to an original type, affirming themselves in their difference. Adapting to the specific location, each building varies from the previous one. Opening up onto its own landscape, it extends towards it while simultaneously retracting from the neighbour to ensure privacy.
The houses put up an almost continuous, solid and austere front onto the access street located to the east of the plot. An interstice between the houses leads towards the open landscape in front to unexpectedly reveal the vastness of the territory.
Seen from there, i Ramarri seem to merge with the landscape, discretely lifting up from the ground to look around while resting in their natural environment. The living spaces located under the rising roofs are protected by vegetation which covers the volumes and wraps up their southern flanks.
Merging with the landscape is more than figurative, it is functional both in environmental and architectural terms. The green roof slants lean softly towards the ground and connect with the surrounding landscape in order to establish the necessary ecological continuity between the natural and the artificial habitats. The exchange is guaranteed in both directions. From the bottom up, the Mediterranean maquis phyto-associations can evolve with no obstacles, enwrapping the buildings as if they were growing over a land relief. From the top down, the rain water flowing down from the green roofs towards the ground nourishes the plants and transports the organic material.
The spiral-like roof conformation augments the water catchment surface while channelling it towards an underground cistern carved out from the rock under the inner courtyard. In the dry season, the collected water is used in the garden and contributes to the passive cooling of the houses. Once the cistern is full, the rainwater overflows flooding the courtyards in the rain season and mirrors the sky in the reflecting pool. The excess of water follows the natural slope and falls into the valley to eventually reach the sea.
Each house revolves around the courtyard, the pivot point of a centripetal movement that invests the entire domestic space, forcing it down from the panoramic terrace all the way to the private spaces of the lower ground floor that enwraps the atrium. The courtyard strengthens the continuity of the inner space which surrounding it enjoys its intimate calm and refreshing shade. There, the rough rock stands out bear to expose the compact mass of stone from which the lower ground is carved out. Such materiality persists in the lower-floor interiors which are defined by an articulated raw concrete topography and wrapped up by thick and semi-blind walls supporting the volume of the floor above. The centripetal movement triggered off by the central void which sets the rhythm for the internal spaces invests the upper floor deforming its envelope and bringing the entire landscape inside and above the living spaces. Covered with vegetation on the roofs and the southward flanks, the wooden shells that host the upper floor living spaces are supported by slender and apparently precarious trusses, as if they were promenades protected by luxuriant pergolas. Splitting open to the north and onto the the spectacular sunsets, the wooden shells host the day activities and offer generous views while protecting from the summer heat. They fold back to look at themselves as they emerge from the ground to look at the land and the sea that they face. As it rises up the spiral topography connects the natural park with the roof terraces organizing various activities along a continuous path that offers access to the garden from all the domestic spaces. The path splits inside, around and above the buildings. The functions become rarefied as they move up to serve outdoor activities, such as gathering aromatic plants, playing in the open air, enjoying the sun or admiring the landscape while suspended at the highest point of the peninsula, at times immersed in the water of the pool, balancing above the ground.