It increases the total accommodation to 26 suites while carefully maintaining the landmark status of the white-washed, 16th C. fortified farm. Thirteen new guest suites are embedded within the southwestern plateau of the picturesque Locanian valley along an excavated, shaded courtyard that sits well below the visual lines to and from the adjacent, historic structure of Phase One and its surrounding pristine landscape. It constructs a field against which the newly restored 16th century whitewashed “casale” is displayed. The abstracted cave-like rooms enjoy the thermal security of the earth’s shelter.
Torre Fiore Phase II
Unique in its class, the existing Hotel Torre Fiore is only one of a handful of remaining structures in the pristine and historically protected mountainous area of Basilicata, Italy. The limited capacity of the historic structure, as well as the high demand from a burgeoning and critical tourist industry, on which many Lucani depend, provoked the expansion to accommodate more rooms alongside the existing amenity. In order to critically maintain unimpeded views of the unblemished landscape while offering the much-needed increased capacity, revenue, and jobs, Hotel Torre Fiore Phase II proposes an earth-sheltered structure that takes advantage of its thermal stability as well as its minimal exterior expression.
A dozen small glass ‘vitrines’ push out from the otherwise earth-hidden rooms, and discretely punctuate the valley edge disappearing in the Southern Italian vegetation. The new structure is covered with living earth almost seamlessly connected to the existing valley’s landscape and its ecology. It profits from the thermal stability this offers, coupled with passive solar principles as well as evaporative cooling and shading effects of new planting.
The mountainous, arid region of ancient Lucania is ideal for this earth-sheltered architecture, as the infamous “sassi” of Matera can attest. The challenges of ventilation and waterproofing are reduced while allowing full transpiration of the natural cooling and heating effects of the surrounding earth. Strategic materials include: planted roof structure; FRP composite panel retaining walls; permeable paving; photovoltaic panels; clay ‘forato’ demising walls clad in thin-shell concrete panels and chestnut wood paneling; and, Mediterranean Cypress trees.
The historic site of Torre Fiore is strategically positioned on the eastern plateau of a small valley, which enjoys spectacular views and welcome breezes predominantly from the west within the mountainous, arid region of Basilicata (once Lucania) in Southern Italy. Due to massive emigration in the past, this region is by Italian standards under populated. Its climate of hot, dry summers and cool, slightly wet winters cannot support large-scale agricultural production.
Even though small-scale agriculture is one of the principal economic activities, with some light industrial production of ceramics, textiles, and woodwork, tourism has the potential for being the most promising earner for the region and its more sustainable re-population. Hotel Torre Fiore Phase 2 hopes to complete what Phase 1 has begun as a catalyst for tourism bringing visitors, providing jobs, and attracting more tourist constructs to propel this much needed industry; while putting the unique, relatively undiscovered culture of the region on display.
Creative Sustainable Devices: The proposed architecture takes lessons from the “sass” of neighbouring Matera. This “inhabited rock district” of cave houses is perfectly adapted to its geomorphological setting and its eco system with a remarkably simple, but durable water management, shading and cooling system. Sunlight is harvested via a series of strategically oriented PV panels which convert its energy into electricity for each suite below. The planted roofs are serrated to receive the angle of each panel while hiding it from view. The earth is held at bay with aid of fiberglass composite panels molded to a profile of superior structural strength. FRP composites generate a much smaller impact than other traditional materials.
Permeable paving system will allow storm water to pass through reducing run-off and improving water quality by filtering pollutants in the substrata layers while also allowing Cypress trees the room to thrive. Rainwater is drained then channeled to two underground cisterns for filtering and recycling back to suite water closets and irrigation waters for the herb garden. Torre Fiore Phase Two’s intervention as earth-sheltered structures innovatively responds to the high demand for tourist constructs in the impoverished region of Basilicata, while respecting the integrity of a pristine and protected historic landscape.
It offers minimal environmental impact, both visually and ecologically, and aims to be self-sustaining through a series of material/design devices that profit from the earth-sheltered approach. This is a strategy adaptable to many sensitive heritage sites around the world. Torre Fiore Phase 2 will continue what was initiated in Phase 1 where great effort was made to utilize local trades, labour, and craftspeople to execute the unique project, while collaborating with the local school for hospitality and tourism to refine the programmatic and personnel needs of the operations. Tourism has the potential for being the biggest earner for the region and its more sustainable re-population. Phase 2 will double the capacity of the Hotel Torre Fiore.
The new structure is covered with living earth almost seamlessly connected to the existing valleys landscape and its ecology. It profits from the thermal stability this offers, coupled with passive solar principles as well as evaporative cooling and shading effects of new planting. The mountainous, arid condition of the site lends itself very well to this approach and provokes maximum energy savings. Torre Fiore Phase 2 constructs a field for the objectified, and fully restored structure of Phase 1, which assumes a commanding prominence over the awesome valley. The new addition is ensconced by plantings of indigenous grasses, Mediterranean Cypress trees and abundant lavender, and the subterranean architecture abstracts the cave like experience with textured concrete, chestnut paneling and fabric drapes offering welcome relief to the sun-drenched outdoors.