Celebrated Italian architect Mirko Varischi is recognized for creating spaces that meld the natural world with the manufactured. Tasked with the challenge of introducing biophilic design into an underground space totally detached from the outdoors, Varischi shares his approach and process. Integrating living organisms, natural light and a new and innovative material called Lapitec®, available on the East Coast exclusively through ABC Stone, Varischi elevates the life surrounding the project as well the life within.
To you as a designer, what does “biophilic design” mean? How do you incorporate it into your projects in general?
MV: We always seek a strong dialogue with nature in our projects by both carefully studying the details of the external spaces, the views from the inside of the green areas, and the landscape surrounding the building. We try to maintain a strong connection with the surrounding environment and the natural context that the building project is part of, whether that be a villa, a simple flat or a relaxing space, but also businesses, commercial spaces or offices.
I personally believe that enhancing the input that the natural environment can have is always enriching for the architectural project, but even more so for the life that goes on in the spaces designed in this way, whatever the functions of the spaces. We use materials with specific characteristics to recreate spaces that have a close connection with nature in order to improve the well-being, quality of life, and why not, the productivity of their users. In this case, Lapitec was combined and integrated with marble, wood, glass and greenery.
What was the space like before the project and what purpose did the clients want it to be redesigned for?
MV: This space was typical of a multipurpose basement connected to a house, with no specific purpose other than that of being a place to put things that are not often used and forget about them.
The project has certainly positively transformed the spatial functionality of this underground environment, reconnecting it to the life of the house and nature both from the inside and outside. The whole house was restructured and reorganized both internally and externally based on the specific needs of the new owners.
The clients were seeking a space that would allow them to unplug from the daily grind and tensions, and to regenerate, so I suggested the idea of organizing it like a little spa including a relaxation area with loungers and a tea area, a sauna, a shower with a series of heads and different jets equipped with an integrated chromotherapy system, and a wonderful hot tub.
The fulcrum of the whole environment is precisely the well of light where we inserted the natural elements, which can, therefore, be enjoyed from every point of view, so as to maximize the connection with nature and the beneficial sensations it creates. All this was realized through careful interior design, though not only the decor and finishes, but also the distribution of the spaces for personal well-being, to be experienced in different ways and times, and using cutting-edge technology integrated into the objects in a smart system capable of simplifying everyday actions and making the home system efficient and personalized.
How did you incorporate biophilic design into this project specifically?
MV: In this project, being a completely underground space destined to become a home spa, I first sought to bring natural light into the environment, making part of the floor of the gym located above it with glass plates and a metal structure. Having positioned this “transparent” floor by the large windows overlooking the garden, the light that seeped down from above already brought reflections of green, but to give a continuum between the inside and outside, I also added basins of plants, black pebbles and pieces of wood so as to enhance the interior environment with nature itself and to allow my clients to enjoy the beautiful view that these elements create, thus increasing the feeling of well-being that an environment dedicated to relaxation needs to inspire.
What materials, specifically, did you use in this design?
MV: As mentioned, the materials chosen for the finishes of this space were Lapitec combined and integrated with marble, wood, glass and greenery; in particular, Lapitec in the Vesuvius finish and the color “Porfido Rosso” was used for the stairs and for the flooring of the wet area (the shower area and hot tub), and in the Fossil finish in the same color for the walls of the area. Lapitec was chosen because the client had requested a natural material that had an excellent aesthetic impact, combined with long service life and easy cleaning, and where large-format slabs could be used.
For the flooring and the covering of the dry areas marble was used, while slatted wood and greenery, as well as the glass walls, were inserted in the heart of the space where the natural light gives the environment a sense of openness and at the same time of protection, and the perfect blend and harmony of the materials is expressed to the full.
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