The Greenary, the house built around a tree by Carlo Ratti for Mutti

November 5, 2021

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The Greenary, the house built around a tree by Carlo Ratti for Mutti


Recently unveiled by international design and innovation office CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with Italo Rota, the Greenary is the project of a private residence built around a ten-meter-tall ficus tree and designed for Francesco Mutti, CEO of Mutti, the European leading producer of tomato-related products.

Located in the Northern Italian countryside, the house fuses architecture, natural elements and advanced technological solutions, taking inspiration from the traditional concept of farmhouse.

The Greenary (a wordplay of “green-granary”) responds to the idea of biophilia, expressed in the 60-year-old ficus tree named Alma standing in the middle of the living space: it is related to trees venerated by Buddhists and belongs to a species called ficus australis that enjoys stable temperatures all year long and is thus well-suited for indoor living conditions.

To create the ideal setting for the tree to thrive, CRA has completely redesigned the old farmhouse to maximize natural light, installing a ten-meter-tall, south-facing glass wall; the design harnesses technology and the micro-climate of the surrounding area to control the temperature and humidity; both the windows and the roof can be opened and closed automatically to adjust the amount of sunlight and fresh air entering the house.

The Greenary consists of seven terraced spaces, with three among them above the entrance and three below it: hese dynamic, interconnected rooms reinterpret 20th-century architect Adolf Loos’ principle of the Raumplan – with nature at its core.

Upon arrival, residents and visitors descend one meter to the main living area and the kitchen, which puts them at eye level with the idyllic meadow outside; the other levels of the house were conceived to form a naturally-inspired journey, throughout which the tree serves as a prominent pillar.

Nature is also incorporated in other forms throughout the interior space, such as in flooring that incorporates soil and orange peels.

The house was built on a site that spans over 2.5 hectares. Apart from the main residential unit, CRA also converted a granary at the back of the house into a workspace. Surrounding both buildings, a garden cultivated by renowned landscape designer Paolo Pejrone celebrates the biodiversity of the local region.

The residence represents the first completed component in CRA’s master plan for the area. Other planned buildings include a factory facility and a canteen-restaurant complex.

To describe his project, Carlo Ratti explains:

The 20th-century Italian architect Carlo Scarpa once said, ‘Between a tree and a house, choose the tree.’ While I resonate with his sentiment, I think we can go a step further and put the two together. Much of CRA’s work focuses on the intersection between the natural and artificial worlds. With the Greenary, we are trying to imagine a new domestic landscape built around nature and its rhythm.”