Casa Albero – Giuseppe Perugini, 1983

Raynaldo Perugini published a book colelcting some essays and writings of his father explaining the ideas and concepts behind the Casa Sperimentale – or like the family calls it – Casa Albero, the Treehouse.

The following text, kindly shared by Raynaldo,has been translated by us.

La Casa Alberto – Raynaldo Perugini

Casa Albero / Planimetry as a whole, short notes are in practice a sort of dutiful tribute to all those who have repeatedly asked me to publish my notes relating to a conference, which I held in 1979, dedicated to some research and I propose for an “architecture model”.  This is a theme that is particularly dear to me as it has been the occasion for a global and correct verification of many ideas and many design interventions that I have carried out during my architectural activity.  Activities that, as I have always claimed, must be above all and compulsorily understood as a constant, with the continuous, occasion of “research”.  In the specific case of this architectural intervention, which I called Casa Albero, I was offered the opportunity to carry out studies and experiments on the object to be carried out without all the constraints and conditions that generally accompany architecture.  And in particular, without time limits, this specific condition had the advantage of allowing me to be able to predetermine pause for reflection and verification without interfering with the development of the idea and its realization. 

I must also say that the collection of notes and graphic documents published here constitute only a minimal part of the material produced during the period between creation and realization, as well as the indications resulting from this experience.  In fact, the choice was made to favour the most significant works, also for obvious reasons of space.  A more exhaustive publication will follow in the future that will collect and make interested parties involved in all the phases of a complex creative process such as the one that originated the house.  However, I hope that what is published here is sufficient to stimulate an attitude of greater attention and awareness towards problems still unresolved in the field of housing structures, as well as re-proposing the reconsideration in terms of the topicality of the indications and results that have been handed down to us by the history of architecture). 

GIUSEPPE PERUGINI Rome, March 17, 1983

Tree / Plant House at ground level with the projection of the building The Tree House must be considered as an architectural object that stands as a real “model to life”.  Moreover, this concept is not new as there are some illustrious precedents in this field.  Suffice it for this to think of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s transposition on a real model of the Kröller Müller House, which was then to become a valid didactic tool, or to the experimental neighborhood of the Weissenhof in Stuttgart.  This example which, in addition to constituting a sort of synthetic repertoire of all the most advanced trends of the moment in the architectural field at European level, is configured as a remarkable expression of this “modelling” in scale 1: 1 which we are talking about. Thus, offering to objective criticism some of the most significant spatial experiences in the history of the Modern Movement.  Not to mention the fundamental experimentation with scholarship in the field of non-specific and object defined by Kurt Schwitters, a leading exponent of the Dada of Hanover, manifested consistently in his model of the true home – sculpture: the Merzbau

However, it should be clarified that this project experience which I am going to describe, while ideally linking to these illustrious precedents, has particular values ​​which are proper to it.  Conceived in the context of a series of proposals and operating schemes designed in 1968 with the intent to unlock, even without openly contesting it, the traditional typological configuration of the housing structure that has long since crystallized, and, at the same time, to overcome the assumption of the pre-constituted functional organicity, the basic idea of ​​the Tree House has come to open itself more and more to experimental initiatives of various kinds which have gradually emerged during the various phases that led to its realization.  Thus, among the alt, the perceptive assumptions were also taken into account, resolved – as already in the Memorial of the Fosse Ardeatine I designed in the 1940s – through the introduction or accentuation of particular scientifically elaborated corrective motifs that flanked by more purely structural features.  The final aim is not in “form” but rather in the possibility of proposing an architectural solution which contributes to solving some problems of the conscience with the convergence of a series of cues soon the susceptible tonic possibility and cues of different origins. 

The experimental principle that underlies the House, therefore, must be verified not so much by evaluating only the results achieved, but rather by proceeding with the analysis of the creative process, because it is precisely the latter that can reveal the correctness of the criteria that contribute to its final conformation.  In light of this, the “technical” structure of the architectural object is naturally based on the maximum of constructive essentiality, also because I agree with Mies’ theory that technique must not be “a field of games like it is not.  architecture, whose spatial dimensionality must always be correlated to the quality of life that takes place in it “. 

Furthermore, the particular principle of mechanization and total standardization applied here, which by nature allows to create a range of almost infinite aggregation possibilities – a real “non-finish-able” rather than an “unfinished” – thus allowing to obtain a wide variety of spatial articulations starting from a single rule, does not refer simply to the House Tree object as an end in itself but rather to the development of a real methodological process.  Evidently, on a superficial analysis, the abolition of the classic typological – functional criteria could raise some doubts, above all of an economic nature, being this particular aspect of the problem directly connected to the traditional principle of standardization of housing.  However, it must be considered that the growing complexity of our needs, which require ever greater flexibility, will necessarily have to take into account new factors in the near future, even if substantial differences are not yet perceptible.  Considering also the fact that the emancipation of the living space from the structure, a real conquest of the senses of architecture.  modern, it represents a significant step forward in all All these assumptions have been concretized here, as far as possible, during this “applied research” which, as I was able to say, is not proposed either controversially or as a solution to the alternative but, he simply wants to recall, albeit in an unspecific key, some traditional architectural parameters so that, appropriately rereading, for a more current position in the area of ​​contemporary design.

At this point it could be objected that the uniformity of the typological standard is actually being proposed in disguise and for this reason it is necessary to further clarify the basic concepts through further clarifications.  The “typological standard”, as it is normally understood, is synonymous with uniformity in all senses and foresees in its interior, and at the same time, a fruition considered optimal as uniform as possible.  In our case, on the other hand, the socio – economic aspect is resolved through an equitable distribution of the liveable space, but at the same time the user is also given greater freedom through an almost infinite range of organizational possibilities, in order to achieve a inhabited space with the indication of the “walls – furniture” optimal distribution of spaces and functions within its environment free from predefined schemes.  And this is why the service units – bathrooms, kitchen, stairs – have been designed as totally autonomous with respect to the main structure and do not affect, as we will see, the economy of living space, as well as the fixed furnishings.  All these functional elements – and in particular the bathrooms – were in fact conceived to be placed outside the main structure, “hung” where necessary, thus performing their traditional role in an autonomously and without interfering with any extensions or re-readings of a continuous “architectural context” evolution.

THE EXPERIMENT

It must first be specified that the experimental process of the Tree House does not end in a single architectural object but extends to a complex of experiments consisting of three episodes, three “tests – object “.  The first is the real Tree House, the second is divided with the codename “Palla” and the third the “Cubetti”.  Three architectural proposals conceptually correlated in order to express three different ways of understanding the concept of housing unit.  Thus, to the naturally unlimited and indefinite – or rather “non-predefined” – structure of the Tree House, a “finite” object – identified through the spherical shape, a symbol of self-realization and cosmic perfection – and an object with linear variability, achievable by applying the principle of seriality. 

The first of these “urban scale models”, the Tree House, essentially consists of a load-bearing structure, completely external to the functional spaces, created as an example of aggregation of a series of  standardized elements – beams, slabs and plates – which could be defined as a “structure – matter” in that it does not present any quantitative limitation of use and is likely to develop indefinitely in all directions.  The second “model”, the Ball, consists of a sphere of five meters in diameter internally equipped rationally as a housing unit.  The third “model”, the Cubetti, consists of a sequence of cubic spatial modules of three meters by three spaced by semi-modules containing the services through which you get a housing unit consisting of two rooms, kitchen and two bathrooms less forty square meters.

In this case it is a “cellular” experimentation organized according to the principle of the aggregation between modules and semi-modules possibly expandable also in height by overlapping.  Although apparently very different from each other, these three examples of experimentation are conceptually connected, as well as by precise modular choices, by the same purposes and by the same common values ​​aimed at proposing new criteria for the design of housing structures. 

EDUCATIONAL ARCHITECTURE

When we aim to organize a didactic orientation system, we must necessarily put this system into reality.  And this is the case of Casa Albero, a cultural and architectural operation which, in transcending its objective characteristics, it proposes itself in a specifically didactic role.  If, in fact, he speaks of didactic architecture, or rather of the teaching of architecture through architecture itself, understood objectively, we must necessarily consider the more directly codifiable aspects.  And this neglects the dialectics of languages ​​and theories that are considered already acquired for a concrete evaluation of reality.  And the real, in turn, must present itself with clarity, without ambiguity, easy to read, so that by following the consequentiality of the operations, the synthesis that determined it can be recomposed.  It does not seem out of place to me at this point to refer to Mies’ reflections, as I believe that this will make the understanding of this aspect of my work easier.  The elementary synthesis, writes the German Master, “always finds its roots in the healthy world of primitive construction methods (…) In fact where can we find a greater structural clarity than in the free constructions of the ancients? (…) Where could one learn such a simple and healthy profession as that of the architect if not from these modest unknowns? “And above all:” this is no less true for steel and concrete, we must remember that it all depends on how we use it and not from the material itself. Every material is what we don’t make it be.

The Tree House, a real “continuum house”, is based on an elementary, primitive, and therefore easily understandable structure.  The Palla, with its historical form, proposes itself here with its vocation to abstraction, opposing the House with its modification by balancing its experimental criteria with a different reading station.  As it is well known, the sphere and classical form, which has repeatedly recurred in the course of history – just think about the visionary images, the sphere is one in the course of history the visionaries of Tree House / Cross Section II Étienne – Louis Boullée or Claude – Nicolas Ledoux -, but which with its synthesis escapes the succession of fashions and styles.  And in this case, to make it livable, another equipped sphere has been introduced, destined to fulfill all traditional functions, including furniture.  Furthermore, it was decided to reject the static nature that would have been generated if the glass cut that connects the two battles that compose it had been horizontal.  Thus, by tilting its barycentric axis, a further naturalistic motif was introduced, that is, a relationship for earth-sky that exalted its dynamism and tension.  A tension further strengthened from the outside by the bronze ideogram that draws a cosmic image on the white marble floor. 

Thus, if it is true, as Adolf Loos states in the essay “Architecture” of 1910, that “architecture arouses in the man of moods” and that “the architect’s task is therefore to specify the state of ‘soul “, it is equally true that when an architecture is open to provoking an emotion it is possible between transforming into an” architecture lesson “.  And this is basically of another of the characteristics of these architectural experiences. 

THE SEARCH FOR A SYMETRIC FLOOR

The structure, as you can see, is symmetrical with respect to a plane of symmetry that can be at the height of the human nail.  This is obtained by equating the structural door leaning with the hanging one, so the hooking elements of the plates that appear free in space are not perceived.  For this reason, the first sensation is that of levitation, but the view of the bearing structures through the voids determined by the offset of the plates themselves produces a sense of stability.  These two converging moods de facto determine a dynamic succession between abstraction and concreteness which provides, on a psychological level, a third state, synthesis of the two components. 

The effect that this state of affairs produces means that rather than being in front of a “container”, one has the impression, when confronted with the simultaneous presence of an interior – exterior, of an architectural object that is interpenetrated or even partially of nature. 

From this derives the denomination of Casa Albero. The house, even internally, does not have completely passable hierarchies, all visible.  There are two “exteriors’ that are actually usable and which refer to each other: A “below” and an “above “. What is above is like what is below.

 So, for the persistence of the memory, you have the feeling of an effective continuity, even formal, which, by reducing the elements of distraction to a minimum, favors the understanding of the project idea.  While A structural criterion of this type, which can be “tipped” in a single-storey oven, allows ideally following a potential overturning movement and fully appreciating the entire structure through a conceptual path. 

THE PLATES

The modular plates, independent of each other, are connected to the structure – hung or supported – by means of cruciform steel brackets and are spaced by a transparent glass plate six centimetres wide.  The volumes closed with the cuts of light. This slit, which we find, symmetrically, on the ceiling and on the floor, also continues on the walls in order to create a linear continuity, a sort of “glass cage” of luminous glass, through which it is possible mentally reconstruct, in an obviously evocative way, the sequence of volumes that make up the building. 

ACCENTUATION OF THE PLAN OF SYMMETRY

To control the plane of symmetry further, the “House” stands on a stretch of water so that both the structure and the sky itself find a further chance to reflect.  Of course, the simultaneous vision of the sky also bears the reflected sky that derives from it, perceptible from inside the building through the slits that separate the plates and the glass parts that underline the staggering.  it contributes to further enhancing the sense of tension and “suspension” which constitutes one of the main characteristics of this architectural experiment.  Perception across the board.

THE TABLING AND WALLS

 A premise is needed here: the characteristics of the load-bearing parts of the building, completely external, eliminate any static constraint and this consequently allows to be able to operate an almost unlimited choice of infill, This freedom of choice has led –  in the course of planning and above all in execution – to formulate a series of potential solutions among which the final choice was made.  A choice that in a certain sense recalls the observations of Adolf Loos who in his ‘Spoken into the Void” addresses the problem of “eliminating furniture” by postulating: “there are no modern furniture”.

In fact Loos writes: “ …Only those modern furniture that can be moved are modern. All the furniture that is fixed to the wall, which therefore cannot be moved, as it is already clear from their nom are therefore real furniture: chests and wardrobes, glass cabinets and sideboards, today practically there exist more (…) We were said that in every age the wardrobes and the cupboards had been conceived  according to the modern spirit, designed according to the spirit of their time and that therefore it was the task of creating these things even today according to the spirit of our time. This was a wrong reasoning. Because, since the wardrobes no longer exist today, it is possible that there are modern ones “.  And therefore “What must the truly modern architect do? He has to build houses in which all that furniture that cannot be moved disappears into the walls. (…) The walls of the house belong to the architect. Here he can do this who wants “.  This is the spirit with which the equipped modular system that constitutes the walls of the Tree House was conceived.  But, it should be noted, that Loos’ words have not been reported here to defend the solution adopted but rather to demonstrate that it is also possible not to “make the furniture that cannot be moved disappear” in the walls, choosing instead, as is the case, to create walls with what plastic value of our construction and rear curtain walls have been defined as “fixed furniture”.  In fact, the plastic value of our Finished by the insertion in the Qulin concrete infill panels made out of work which become, from time to time, wardrobes, bookcases or containers with vainness and which make up the walls, an internal space that appears visually more g than it really is.

The assembly of these elements was carried out by means of suitably threaded steel bolts.  Once fixed, the cohesion between the various modules was then strengthened by glueing with bituminous materials.  This system would ideally allow for a potential constant variability of the walls through the interchangeability of the modules – full, cable, wardrobe, etc.  – which can be applied at any point and at any time.  This extreme flexibility is obviously reflected as an important factor on the freedom of use of the living space.  The truly “mobile” furnishings, on the other hand – beds, sofas, tables, chairs and armchairs – are obviously isolated from the walls and free to characterize the inhabited environment in a completely autonomous way.  In this sense, a model of “totem bed” has also been hypothesized which, placed vertically during the day, can – once this is the case – open to give space to its normal functions.

THE OPENINGS

The infill which, as we have seen, is conceived as a set of modules that provide practically limitless combinations. It allows you to insert openings in the walls wherever you deem it appropriate, as well as as mentioned above, possibly changing the with figuration over time.  the glazed modules – with fixed or openable glass – can in fact be combined in various ways, according to the principle adopted for the walls, in order to create real “volumes of light” that project both into the interior space both towards the outside. 

THE SERVICES

Considering that, as already specified, the care ale of Casa Albero consists in the ace of freedom of aggregation of spaces, this obviously implies that there are no destinations before stay, lunch, bed, etc.  – and that therefore all service minds are “hung” to the structure.  In fact the scale as much as the bathroom elements – built outside on and in turn standardized – can be fixed to slabs at any point of the building their presence is required.  

THE BATHROOM, SHAPE AND FUNCTION

The bathroom module has a deliberately you shape and is based on maximum simplicity and intentionally functional eco-friendliness and economy. In fact, it basically looks like a reinforced concrete casing containing standardized plastic sanitary appliances that can close at the moment the shower is activated.  The latter is presented as a circular tube with nozzles from which jets of water pour out which together create a particular effect.  It has also been thought, possibly, to add to this system a parallel ring of jets of hot air aimed at drying the user, just as part of the floor is removable, thus leaving space for a small bathtub.  Scheme of the functioning of the bathroom

THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BALL AND THE SERVICES

The inspiring principle of their construction is the system of potters.  In fact, the first step is to carry out an excavation aimed at obtaining the space to make the initial mind the guiding form, which is also facilitated here by the sandy soil.  A vertical pole is then fixed in the center with a welded iron sheet suitably shaped so that, by rotation, the desired shape can be obtained.  After a first rotation of the shaped rod, which regulates the excavation, always rotating, plaster is thrown which, depositing itself on the walls, thickens and creates the real counter form.  Then we proceed with the installation of a steel reinforcement made separately and fix a galvanized iron circle on the upper part of the resulting form.  At this point the initial foil is replaced with one of reduced dimensions, determined by the thickness that is intended to be given to the element to be made and then the concrete is cast by still rotating the rod on itself until the cement has purchased a certain consistency.  After the time necessary for the setting of the cement, it is necessary to dig around the counter form that is pining, thus releasing a perfectly finished object which is then removed with the crane and moved for laying. It is a substantially very simple system which, as in this case and if the conditions exist, it can also be carried out on site. The two half-caps that make up the Ball were also made in the same way but with further precautions. In fact, after having made the two parts that they constitute it, a particular COSTITU support structure was made up of a series of “U” beams – suitably pie gates – and large C in galvanized metal, while, as we have said, the choice to tilt the glass junction point made it possible to avoid a sense of static nature that a horizontal solution would have generated.  The structure of the house and the ball under construction Scheme of the construction technique of the services and the ball.

Given the purposes that these short notes propose and the small space available, I think I will not have to go any further by recalling here the purposes and the “old-fashioned” method of the treaties whose purpose was to allow the dissemination of ideas, elements and their explanation.  I understand perfectly well that Casa Albero can appear at first sight as an object in its own way eccentric, like the dream of a visionary architect, but I hope that whoever reads these lines will recognize its true meaning, its true role, which  it is that of “mo of the experimental”, finding in the compositional choices made the concretization of all those values, even symbolic or unconscious, which have always been part of the very idea of ​​Architecture.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE MANUSCRIPT

The house of Fregene provided the pretext for a series of experiments elaborated on the theoretical level. 

1 – Experimentation of the unfinished.  Through a series of models, a structural design has been determined that preserves its in-organicity and allows growth in all directions – infinitely. 

2 – Abstraction of the architectural void.  The empty tectonic arch is only evoked through the surfaces hanging on the beams, independent of each other.  The voids (interspaces) have been determined so that the architectural void is never perceptually determined as a volume. 

3 – The psychological effects (reversal of static sensations in dynamics) have been experimented through the determination of a horizontal symmetry plane whereby the structure overturns in a mirror sense.  The sky is evoked by its reflection on a mirror of water placed under the structure. 

4 – The functions / services are linked to the structure in an absolutely autonomous way, even formally.  The closure of the liveable vertical spaces occurs through containers and movable glass elements according to a preventive study of the positions that takes into account the perspective continuity.  The suggestion of the empty tectonic arches is accentuated by mirroring walls placed in particular conditions. 

5 – The contrast between finite and unfinished has been experimented by contrasting the aforementioned structure with a spherical volume placed in a related point and determined through a series of theoretical considerations. 

July 9, 2020