Carlana Mezzalira Pentimalli

Magic Carpet, Masterplan and Residential Buildings . Montreux

2010 (2nd Prize) . + Europan 10

The most spontaneous way to define a domestic space is through the construction of a boundary; depending on the degree of its physicalness, the distinction between what is meant by “public” and “private” will be more or less clear-cut. Focussing on what is commonly meant by domestic boundary, it will be possible to dismantle and reassemble traditional types.

The Suspended Enclosure
The arrangement of the buildings within the area in question and the definition of their types are the result of a reflection on an hypothesis for a new model of collective living. The buildings are of the courtyard type, yet the fact that they are positioned above an articulated ground allows to preserve the privacy and the intimacy which characterise this model and, at the same time, to change radically its spatial peculiarities. As a matter of fact, the five living units only partially rest on the ground, thanks also to the wooden self-bearing system, thus allowing to create beneath them a porous and liquid space within which the boundary between what is public and what is semi-public is marked by the threshold. Set aside the idea of a tangible enclosure, the project proposes different environments in physical continuity with each other. Through the materials of the project and the physicalness of the overhanging buildings, the semi-public spaces belonging to the residential complex are thus distinguished from the public ones. The aim is to present neither a project nor a plan, but a series of processes generated by the fundamentals of collective urban life. A house, a park, a town. Usual elements recombined according to a logic which differ from the usual one. From the boundary to the threshold therefore, in order to distinguish environments of different nature and, above all, to keep them simple and continuous with each other. Inside/outside becomes here/there.

Towards a New System of Relationships
The drive of modern society towards individualism and nomadism prompts a reflection on the importance of the relationships between individuals and on the materials through which these relationships can come into being. Following on the tourist vocation of the town of Montreux and drawing on the analysis of the variety of the users who inhabits it, as well as of their spatial and temporal habits, flying carpet aims at being more than a simple image of contemporary life. It becomes instead practical material for the project, a fundamental element for the creation of new spaces of social aggregation where people can establish relationships with each other.

Relationships With the Territory
The delicate and complex composition of the territory which includes and surrounds the town of Montreux entails a series of reflections that directly link the area of the Grands Prés with the surrounding systems. It is interesting to note that continuous systems running parallel to the lake’s coastline cross the area of intervention. These are the main infrastructure connections, that is to say the railway line, running close to the shore of the lake, and the highway, located uphill. The main traffic streams crossing the part of the territory with the highest population density and the location of the main public services and activities coincide with these two systems. Similarly, there is also a series of subsystems, perpendicular to these, which connect the established part of the town with other minor centres or areas of interest. These subsystems consist of unitary elements which differ from each other and which are identifiable with a road infrastructure, a water infrastructure and a green infrastructure. The flows which cross them are different, slower and less voracious. This implies a location of services of different size and of activities of different kinds. The practices of the community which gather around them are more fluid and coexist in symbiosis with a residential system which nourishes them and, in turn, is nourished by them. The aim of the project on the architectonic scale is to operate with the awareness that the planned intervention represents an element to be carefully inserted in a complex and delicate system in which all the parts contribute to the cohesion of the whole. The project establish a physical and biological continuum between the green areas without making them uniform. The purpose is to preserve the peculiarity of the different existing green areas while connecting them with the planned
ones through a system of links, each one with its own distinct identity. Thus, a series of spatial sequences is created, consisting of green areas that, in addition to preserving biodiversity and protecting its delicate balance, at the same time also allow to create spaces for public use. People will be able to meet and socialize in these open air spaces which will be provided with basic service facilities.
At the same time, the residential complexes will be carefully located in some parts of this area. These complexes will not alter the nature of the public green; rather, they will enrich them through the creation of semi-public areas whose boundaries are marked by the buildings without being enclosed by them. To the passer-by the project appears as an uninterrupted ground (even more wonderful because unusual for a residential block), sheltered by residential complexes whose configuration depends on the building type they include and on the visual and orograhpic contexts. Topography and geography unite to become architecture. Isotropic and homogeneous places look different depending on the practices which inhabits them.

The Door of the Town
Located close to the entrance to Montreux from the highway system, the area of the Grands Prés is symbolically and monumentally the door to the town of Montreux. For this reason and also to ensure a balance with regards to the density of the neighbouring areas, we opted for a system of five big buildings in which the dimensions, the arrangement and the relationships between the flats vary. Thus the overall image is that of five protagonists resembling each other, arranged and located according to the same principles and realised with the same materials and construction techniques. Identical but different: each of the five buildings contains flats which differ for spatial dimensions and that, therefore, will house people of different financial means who belong to different social classes. Yet all of this is not visible from the outside, thanks to the quality and the final image of the suspended enclosures which are the same for all the buildings; thus the outer appearance of the house of a young student or of a tourist of limited financial means corresponds to that of those who live in the adjoining “villas”, whose indoor dimensions are definitely bigger, but whose quality is the same.

Type Flexibility
The planning proposal schedules the placement of different housing units inside the same type. Modular dwellings addressed to singles or couples for a short stay, or housing with variable size (the flexibility is obtained by the distribution system with landings), dwellings with average size and out villas with independent and unified access. Gathering common spaces are planned for every unit housing; their area decreases in inverse proportion compared to the lodging dimensions.

Michel Carlana
Luca Mezzalira
Curzio Pentimalli
Riccardo Sanquerin
Europan Europe, Municipalità of Montreux, Switzerland
Dimensional dates
15.400 m2
52.700 m3

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