Casa Kostner by Modus Architects


Modus Architects

Marco Zanta, Alessandro Gandolfi




Castelrotto, BZ Italy

Let’s go back to architecture. We would like to talk about your work now. Can you tell us about the Kostner house?

Matteo Scagnol: One of the few residences that we have not built on competition. The artist Kostner had organised a competition asking three architects for proposals, but they didn’t like them. How did the project come about? There is an anecdote that is based on a postcard; the project developed very quickly: the theme of the two volumes that takes up the tradition, of the two small houses side by side, and the plan of the Fischer house in Kahn, transposition of a planimetric concept of another world. The basic themes are three: the embrace, gravity and duality. We package the project and instead of calling Hubert to present it, we print a postcard with a photomontage that makes us understand and not understand. We send the postcard and say, “If you wish to continue with us, we’ll come; but at that point, we will continue.” (Laughs – editor’s note). And you understand that curiosity is the greatest means of persuasion; this thing of showing / not showing intrigued him so much that he convinced himself; it was a game, also linked to the expressive method that he himself has used in some works. Being an architect also means being a psychologist and having a solid understanding of all the dynamics. When you win a contest, the idea is to not go back. It’s not that you’re arguing with the client and putting the idea back into play. If a client starts from scratch to make a house, you chop and change it many times. In this case, the client has chosen, and if he has made that choice, that is it. And as an architect you are greatly advantaged in the progress. Having understood that Kostner as an artist is an extraordinarily complex character, playing the advantage was the real motivation of the postcard. “Is it okay with you? If it’s okay, we will continue on this path, otherwise you won’t see what we’ve done.” And so, it was a bit of an edict. Not having the opportunity to enter a contest, you present an image and say this is the idea. Either you accept it and I come to you, or you don’t, and I won’t show you the whole world behind it. It is curiosity that stimulated the decision. Of course, the architecture in question also stems from the ability of the artist to be a provocateur. We give him credit that we had to create a work for a provocateur. As an artist, he mocks tourism, tradition, the South Tyrolean world is transformed to make tourists feel good. With his atelier he wanted to give a personal, physical signal to the community. We, having understood this impulse, used the material of tradition, wood, but under a POP light: the structures are not just X coverings. The building appears simple, but structurally it is extraordinarily complex because it fits together like a plot, a network that works by twisting. I had to send two engineers away who said the building would not stand up and didn’t want to take responsibility. It is an immensely powerful project because it is weak: it is a classic architecture, a peristyle, a small temple, and it is very weak, because if you go around the base with a chainsaw everything collapses. It has the power of fragility, small but monumental, at the same time you understand that it is weak. The first sketches we made were of a nest, an inverted nest, the theme of functional duality, atelier and home. Two worlds, with its partner and two children. The last two small rooms at the top, which are not visible, not communicating, placed under a single roof, as if they lived in two separate worlds; then you descend and in the common area you get back together. It has a very intense internal story. It was wonderful to work with him because he experienced it as a part of his body, as an extension. Usually when you design buildings, you think about them quickly and then you have to put them up. He lived it just like he was growing another ear.

Sandy Attia: The plan is from Kahn’s Fischer House, so we know how to copy well! (laughs – editor’s note).

Matteo Scagnol: It’s a safe road (laughs – editor’s note)… we are not ashamed to say it. Returning to the initial speech, we have two different cultures and they have entered into symbiosis. We are in symbiosis and we have enriched each other; this is our advantage.

Sandy Attia: Having two heads also helps a lot, it gives you much more and it’s more fun. How do people who work on their own self-criticise?

Matteo Scagnol: No, no, I would be happy! (laugh – editor’s note)

From our interview with Modus Architects

THE TREE MAG – The Fruits of Ideas