Antoniuanum Meran is a three-part residential ensemble at the foot of a rising hill range in Merano, a city in the South Tyrol province of Italy. The residential complex is shaped by the natural vegetation and picturesque landscape of its context. Realised with the assistance of equity crowdfunding for Bolzano-based real estate company Pohl Immobilien, the project positions itself as a return to ‘living with and in nature,’ according to Vienna-based firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects (DMAA) who were responsible for its completion. Interestingly, despite this characterisation, the project has a machine-like aesthetic, with slender trellises, columns, and canopies stretching across vast expanses of lush greenery, imbuing a strict geometric tone upon an organic plain – in a manner that differs from the firm’s earlier exploits with the Taiyuan Botanical Garden in China.
Known for its spas, serene landscape, and historic city centre, Merano is a gem within the heart of South Tyrol and is well connected to other urban settlements such as Bolzano, in its vicinity. As per the architects, the development – which had initially called for a single structure – has been articulated in a trio of three-storey cuboidal forms with a distinctly modernist identity. Of the three volumes, the larger two hosts four housing units each on their first and ground floors, with two penthouses on the topmost floor. The smaller of the three blocks hosts two apartments on its lower floors while the topmost level is occupied by a single penthouse. On the upper floors, the terraces wrap around the entire level to create alluring panoramic vistas of the site’s hillside context, while providing shade to the apartments beneath them.
Slender black metal members, full-height-triple glazed openings, and natural wood floors define the facade of the three blocks. In some ways, this theme does well to recede into the organic landscape due to its relatively light massing and dark, austere materiality. However, its impingement upon the lush greenery of the surrounding region is quite stark, when considering the exceedingly minimalist and contemporary style of the buildings, which might seem more at home in an urban centre.
Besides the housing units themselves, the architects have connected individual blocks by means of metallic spatial filters that were implemented to double as frames for climbing plants. Spread across the site in varying densities, they run in tandem with stone pathways between the structures, with lamella-esque bands oriented both vertically and horizontally to provide shade from various angles. Extending the visible structural grid of the blocks onto the terrain embracing them, these members inundate the project’s landscape design with their spindly profiles, like the spreading appendages of a mechanical being that has deemed the plot to be its new home. Similar elements also wrap around the buildings themselves, screening balconies and terraces from prying eyes while knitting the visual identity of the development together as one cohesive whole.
The amount of attention given to this stern spatial grid arrangement does, in a sense, impose the artificial order of human civilisation – with qualities of high modernism and the International style – upon what might have once been a natural ecosystem in certain respects. Furthermore, their sheer volume infuses a strong rhythm to the built forms on site, contrasting the verdant environment they are settled in. The resulting configuration heavily emphasises horizontality – with its innumerable overhead trellises and panoramic balconies.
Conversely, apart from the innumerable columns and canopies that have overtaken the area of the site, the housing units themselves, are well connected to their natural surroundings, with many cosy nooks and outdoor sit-out spaces oriented to provide scintillating views of the hills nearby. The apartments are also flooded with abundant daylight through the extensive glazing that envelops shared living areas. Natural wood floors and stoneware tiles have been used in the interior design of the living spaces and bathrooms respectively, while terrazzo has been applied in common areas, softening the ambience within the units.
Smart home systems and mechanical ventilation have also been incorporated as part of the residential design’s cutting edge features. A simple and elegant ambience characterises the décor, prioritising utility and restraint in its aesthetic character. The integration of landscape and architecture within the semi-outdoor spaces is also comprehensive, as even the units on lower levels are screened by trees and overgrown pergolas that serve as a visual buffer.
In keeping with DMAA’s idea to ‘evoke the spirit of California modernism’ within this context, Antonianum Meran is an intriguing study in the adaptation of modern luxury design and residential architecture for a peri-urban locale. With its clean lines and aesthetic clarity, the DMAA has effectively melded the natural and built environments into a united entity, albeit one where the impact is skewed slightly in favour of the latter.
Name: Antoniuanum Meran
Location: Merano, Italy
Site Area: 4,588 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 1,186 sqm
Number of Levels: E + 2
Height: 8.49 m
Year of Completion: 2021
Client: Pohl Immobilien
Architect: Delugan Meissl Associated Architects
Project Manager: Marinke Böhm-Kneidinger
Project Team: Michael Lohmann, Alex Pop
Executive Planning: Elmar Unterhauser Architects
Landscape Architect: Galabau KG des Nikolaus Messmer & Co.
Structural Engineering: Pohl+Partner – Dr. Ing. Siegfried Pohl
Building Physics: Systent