Finding affordable property in Italy’s stunning South Tyrol region is no easy task, as Andrea Holzer and her husband Roland Graf can attest. The couple spent years searching for the right site to realize their longtime dream—a family home designed by Plasma Studio, an international architectural practice renowned for its dynamic work. When they finally found an affordable plot at the edge of a commercial area in the Gsies Valley, Andrea reached out to Plasma Studio Partner Ulla Hell with the happy news.
“At first glance, the site might not have seemed ideal,” says Hell, noting the property’s proximity to the main road and the neighboring buildings that mainly consist of workshops for builders and carpenters. “But the plot’s generous size opened up the possibility of a large garden, and its location in a terrain sink provided visual and acoustic protection from the main road.”
Using the sloped terrain to their advantage, the architects crafted an L-shaped home that frames a central garden with an existing silver fir as a focal point. The home—named House L after its shape—was strategically placed parallel to a small access road to shield the garden from its neighbors.
The firm’s knack for turning site constraints into design solutions is also apparent in their response to local building regulations that mandated the inclusion of a pitched roof to match the local architecture. “We experimented with the pitched roof so that the house appears differently when viewed from each side,” says Hell. “It was also important to pass the experience of the inclined roof to the interiors.”
To emphasize the home’s form and to evoke the nearby forests, the architects clad the building in locally sourced rough-sawn larch. Local larch was also extensively used in the interiors.
“Larch is a local, very durable wood,” notes Hell. “The clients own a forest, so we sourced some wood from their forests. As seen in the interiors, larch is a soft and warm wood with big tactile qualities. In the bedrooms, we used stone pine—also from the clients’ own forest—because it’s said to help support regular heart rhythms when sleeping.”
Sustainability was also a guiding design principle for the home—it was constructed with local materials and labor sourced from within a radius of 15 kilometers. Engineered to meet Klimahaus A standards, House L features an airtight envelope with triple-glazed windows and fiber wood insulation. Passive solar orientation and a geothermal system with controlled ventilation reduce the 2,350-square-foot home’s energy demands.
The biggest challenge was the very short design timeline. “But because we were already familiar with the clients’ needs and habits, and due to the clients’ trust in us, we were able to finish relatively quickly,” says Hell, who has known Andrea for years.
“The whole area around the kitchen under the inclined roof, the access to the garden, and the view of the fireplace are my favorite parts of the project,” says Hell. “I also like how the facade continues onto the roof, and how the building’s L shape frames a view of the garden and the old beautiful silver fir in the center.”