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MoDusArchitects revives Novacella Abbey museum complex with artistic interventions in Bolzano
Italy Architecture News - Jun 10, 2021 - 12:40 2064 views
Named Novacella Abbey Museum Addition, the museum complex, nestled within the vineyard lined basin of the Eisack valley near Bressanone, has been extended by MoDusArchitects with a new entrance.
The new complex introduces a tripartite spatial sequence and forms an atmospheric bridge across histories.
Founded in 1142, the abbey not only represents one of the most significant architectural ensembles in South Tyrol today, but also stands as a preeminent Augustinian Abbey of its time.
Like a small, self-sufficient village, each building within the monastery complex played a specific role: the constituent churches, chapels, mills, workshops, wine cellars and farmhouses formed an indelible nucleus—only a portion of which has been converted into a museum.
"Our new addition helps orient visitors to the Abbey grounds and participates in its layered history, positing new positions and new vocabularies with an architectural language respectful of both the past and the future," said Matteo Scagnol, co-founder with Sandy Attia of MoDusArchitects.
MoDusArchitects’ addition injects new functions into old buildings and rewires the relationships between the ancillary structures and the main buildings of the Abbey. From the outside, the project is only evident by the blackened, copper clad bridge that emerges from a cluster of reconstituted service buildings that connect to the main cloister at the upper level.
Part demolition, part renovation and part restoration, the project intervenes in three secondary, adjacent structures set against the backdrop of the 17th century wing of the main cloister.
The first building is gutted to transform the agrarian storehouse into the airy, double-height space of the entry atrium with an overlooking mezzanine level.
The second building on the other hand, replaces the demolished, one-story lavatorium with a sweeping stair and elevator tower that bridges over to the antique wing of the cloister.
The third and final structure is renovated to house a seminar and event space at the ground level with a newly configured outdoor courtyard, and a temporary exhibition space and choir room on the upper level.
The new atrium features the custom-built ticket counter, display cases and light fixtures whose articulated details of copper, wood and glass create new conversations within the newly exposed eaves of the restored, pitched wooden roof and the rough-hewn plaster work.
Visitors leave the entry hall heading outdoors to begin their tour at the Abbey cloister, the itinerary winds through the monastery, passing through the 18th century library and a newly restored 17th century frescoed room to then conclude the circuit by bridging back to the new addition on the upper level, at the top of the stairwell.
In this way MoDusArchitects’ project is both the starting point and the point of arrival of the museum sequence.
Completing the museum visit and stepping beyond the antique walls of the Abbey into the space of the new bridge, a large window provides a visual release: a foreshortened view over the rooftop of the renovated storehouse snaps back to the Sant’Angelo chapel for orientation, while also affording privileged views into the walled garden of the Abbey, and the vineyards beyond.
Bush hammered, exposed concrete walls, trowel-finished concrete floors, and thick chestnut woodwork provide a tactile backdrop to bring the spatial sequence full circle back to the cascading stairs that lead to the atrium once again.
The architectural elements are held together in an atmospheric balance of subtle tones and natural materials; a sense of serenity is afforded by the measured use of a limited design palette whereby the new and old are reconciled through discrete details, be it from the parapet of the stair, the fenestration, to the finishing of the vertical and horizontal surfaces.
The project is accompanied by the artistic interventions of Paul Renner whose romantic and playful interpretations of the hortus sanctis augustini create a whimsical sidekick to the sobriety of the interiors.
Renner’s picturesque excursus on the botanical heritage of the Abbey unfolds along the metal cladding of the elevator tower as visitors descend from the upper level of the cloister back to the entry hall.
MoDusArchitects’ work takes on the heterogeneity of the disparate architectural time periods of the Novacella Abbey with an incisive approach that melds together both historical and contemporary vocabularies in a balanced whole.
The design of the sequence of spaces and their haptic, tactile messages of emptiness, time passing and the more ephemeral qualities that only the visitor can experience, carry forward all that the Abbey offers into the future.
Ground floor plan
1st floor plan
2nd floor plan
Cross section, part 3, intervention
Cross section, part 3, legend
Section, transversal bridge
MoDusArchitects previously completed the renovation of the Cusanus Academy in Bressanone and designed sculptural entry portals to the Bressanone-Varna Ring Road in Italy.
Project name: Novacella Abbey Museum Addition
Location: Vahrn, Bolzano (Italy)
Architect: MoDusArchitects (Sandy Attia, Matteo Scagnol)
Project Architect: Laura Spezzoni
Augustinian Canons of Novacella
Augustiner Chorherrenstift Neustift
Design phase: June 2016 - May 2020
Construction phase: May 2020 - April 2021
Completion: May 2021
Opening: June 4th, 2021
300 sqm (new construction)
310 sqm (covered area building under protection)
Structural engineer: Ing. Philipp Prighel, Bergmeister ITB
Mechanical engineer: Ing. Norbert Klammsteiner, Energytech
Electrical engineer: Andreas von Lutz (Von Lutz Studio Associato)
General contractor: Oberegger GmbH
Exhibition design: Alessandro Gatti, doc s.r.l.
Hortus Sancti Augustini, Camera d’ambra
Timber construction: Hubert Silgoner
Electrical installations: MairSystem
Mechanical and plumbing installations: Abfalterer
Sheet metal work and copper cladding: Stampfl GmbH
Concrete flooring and paint finishes: Die Meistermaler
Plasterwork and wall restoration: Amac Bau
Wood and tile floors: Peintner Fliesen
Metal fabrication: Metall Ritten
Doors: Rubner Türen
Automated doors: Doormatic
Lighting solutions: Zumtobel
Custom-built furniture: Möbel Ladinia
Standard furnishings: Trias OHG
Audio-visual equipment: Putzer
Upholstery and window coverings: Sedis GMBH
All images © Simone Bossi
All drawings © MoDusArchitects
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