Filippo Guidi’s T2 house in Italy isn’t merely a materialization of current buzz words; it’s about teaching a man to fish. His house tells a story about expanding architecture for the good of society. Not only did Guidi accomplish a rectangular space-conscious two-bedroom residence, he learned to build the house for himself with the help of his architect friend, Ferrara, Italy-based Antonia Ravalli Architetti.
Ravalli, through his architecture, interiors, and urban design firm, helped Guidi with his cabin design. The incarnation of sustainability is a hybrid of Modernist inspiration and rustic masculinity. Material selection required a thoughtful process based on multiple challenges. Site orientation demanded carefully planning. Ventilation was a labor of classic architecture practices. In the end, however, Ravalli not only helped his friend achieve a gorgeous abode, he taught a man to fish.
Locally available materials such as laminated timber beams and copper shingles add aesthetic value to the rural residence and help Guidi to achieve energy and economic efficiency. The intrinsically irregular qualities of the shingles make a shocking impression upon first glance in this rural area, yet upon second glance they actually help the architecture to blend in with its surroundings because of their very rustication. You and I and other, non-architects could do projects like this with the help of erento.
‘It was also very important that the materials were easy to assemble, (because) the house was to be built by the client himself, who didn’t possess previous experience about …construction,’ says Antonio Ravalli, principal of the firm. Not only was his friend the client, Guidi also wore the hats of bricklayer and builder. The architect taught him how to assemble the different elements and to construct the house. It’s exemplary of the growing trend toward placing more social value in architecture, permeating its value beyond the bourgeois.
‘In times in which houses are becoming more and more sophisticated, and in which there’s the need to call somebody to solve even the smallest technical problem, the almost total knowledge of Filippo about his own home− having built it− is something which recalls ancient ways and times,’ says Ravalli.
Excess lumber remaining from the home’s shell Guidi used to construct his own furniture. For example, the bed was made with same wood found in the beams. ‘Noticeable is the fact that some of (the furniture was) realized under the “impulse” of the client, out of the control of the architect,’ Ravalli laughs.
Cross ventilation is naturally built in to the home and undergirded by its orientation on the lot.
‘Many design aspects were determined by the presence of the trees on the site and their position, (like the shape of the house, the position of the windows, the material used for covering the roof and the whole house, its ascent, the absence of gutters, etc…). The dialogue of the building with the landscape, the relation between the inner space and the exterior, are a consequence of all these choices guided by sustainability concepts. One of the most evident effects is that each window faces a different tree of the garden, with a different color and a different blossom period. The house is positioned between the trees so that they can proportion shadow in summer and (create) a greenhouse effect in winter,’ Ravalli says.
Ceiling heights escalate from 2.5 to 4.2 meters, which Ravalli designed for dual purposes. In the higher section of the home Guidi and Ravalli established storage spaces which are accessed from the bedroom and the studio. This height also aids in ventilation. The town has hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The bedroom and studio doors can remain open at the higher part, thereby permitting air to circulate freely throughout the whole house.
Not only his residence but Guidi’s life is unconventional. ‘The T2 house is not properly a vacation house nor a permanent residence. Filippo’s work often takes him for trips of several months to Africa.
The T2 house might just exemplify what José Gámez and Susan Rogers wrote in their essay in Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism, “An Architecture of Change”, ‘Design does not have to be compromised in the process of serving the needs of others.’