Architecture sets a new standard in this building where timber slats form rhythmic waves and the innumerable qualities of wood as a construction material is explored and then re-explored.
Timber in liquid motion drapes the administrative headquarters of the wood-building company Damiani Holz & Ko SpA in Bressanone, Italy. Designed by Sandy Attia and Matteo Scagnol of Modus architects, the wavy wooden exterior of the structure makes it a landmark in the light industrial zone of Bressanone. Say the architects, “The project is the result of an invited competition that called for the refurbishing of, and addition to the administrative and logistical headquarters.
The competition brief outlined the need for a structure that embodied not only the company’s activity but also the company’s philosophy. As a result, the addition uses multiple construction systems in wood and showcases the use of ‘raw’, industry-grade wood as a finished material in many different forms.”
Describing the building as a ‘compact wooden monolith resting upon a black concrete base,’ it speaks not only for the company’s expertise in developing custom-made wood construction solutions but also its philosophy which embraces environmentally conscientious products and techniques which won the project a dual Climate House certification (Nature and Work & Life).
One glance at the undulated façade, and there is no doubt in the observer’s mind that the five-storey building is made entirely out of wood. Save for the reinforced concrete base on which it rests and a few protruding apertures framed in steel, wood in its varied stages and forms, is the dominant material palette.
The transparency and lightness of the glazed surfaces etching the concrete ground floor, completely contrasts the wooden monolith composed of a timber brisesoleil atop it. The composition of ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ outlines a delicate balance and as the architects point out, ‘the inherent dependency between the concrete base and the wooden building is played-out in the technical and tactile symbiosis of concrete and wood.’
The external wavy façade is composed of series of irregular, jagged wooden slats forming a wave like pattern, which flirts with the sunlight in the daytime, creating an interesting banter of light and shadows, and transforms the solid wood into a dynamic element.
Ushering one inside are two entrances – one for the visitors from the street side and another lower entry located close to the production facilities for the employees.
The lower floor which houses the reception and design and engineering offices is an extended dialogue between wood, glass and concrete as prime surface textures.
The new cube connects with the existing old building through a glass pavilion serving as an informal meeting point for the employees at the ground level and a walkway on the first floor that houses the design and managers’ office.
Administrative spaces and a small meeting room occupy the second floor, while the conference room and company bar are on the third level. The last floor is thought-out as a multifunctional open-space for conferences, workshops and an exhibition hall.
When asked about the construction details, explain Sandy Attia and Matteo Scagnol, “the wooden structure is comprised of two load-bearing wall systems: a perimeter which is light-frame construction and two cross-laminated timber structural cores that rise from the concrete base to the wooden roof.”
The staircase and elevators, also made of wood, take us to the different levels – spaces crafted in a unique style but bound in unison by the white plywood panels as perimeter walls.
On the ground floor if it is the ceiling composed of cross-laminated plywood panels designed with concentric circular cut-outs that captivate you, then on the first floor the continuous wave-like motion of the ceiling created with vertical wooden slats of varying heights leaves you spell bound.
The second and third floor take on more playful notes, deviating from the formal and elegant style to be replaced by a casual and homely symphony of ‘wood art’. Conceived as ‘caisson’ using wooden beams to decompose the entire ceiling into a series of squares and rectangles varying in sizes.
The second floor is distinct from the last level where the open spaces and conference rooms are sheltered with coffers and a honeycomb rather than the regular ridge beams and joists ceilings for the sloping roof.
The unique floor designs reflect the company’s vast technical capabilities or as the architects say, “ we have showcased not only the versatility of wood engineering, but also the very malleability of wood itself.”
Architects Sandy Attia and Matteo Scagnol inverted the scales when they converted the constraint of using wood as the dominant material, into an elegant element that reflected not just the potentials of the company’s engineering capabilities but also the beauty and unfound possibilities of wood in the right artists’ hands. Thus, in this case, a block of wood, in the nimble fingers of a craftsman was converted into a beautiful piece of art.
Text By K Parvathy Menon Photographs Courtesy Günther Wett