Dream House

Messner House: From Hay Loft to Dream House

28 Agosto 2019 -
DI Redazione
Located in the western region of the majestic Dolomites is Europeʼs largest alpine pasture, the Alpe di Siusi otherwise known by the German name Seiser Alm. This breathtaking area abounds with stunning panoramic views, mighty peaks, green meadows, mountain lakes and typical huts and inns. Tucked away in the midst of this striking scenery, at the foot of the Schlern mountain in the South Tyrol, is Messner House. Once a hay loft, this structure which dates back to 1850 has been transformed into a dream house by its owner and architect Stefan Rier.

The project, which was carried out by Noa Network of Architecture, takes its first cues from the traditional local structures of the Alto Adige and then suddenly surprises with an interior designed with visionary and unexpected spaces, all of which give the abode an almost magical feel and are an inspiration taken from Rierʼs childhood memories of days spent in the high mountains.

The project to create Messner House was at its heart a longing to connect with tradition while simultaneously desiring to step away from that tradition and create a personal vision, a unique identity, a new and different way of living and of looking at the home.

The project, which was completed in 2017, required a certain delicacy as it happens to be located at 1100 meters above sea level at the feet of the Seisner Alm, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its natural beauty. It was therefore important for Rier, cofounder of Noa along with Lukas Rungger, and who was acting as his own client on this project, to take into consideration both the original structuture and the townʼs planning requirements.

“We wanted the structure to be consistent with the urban layout of the town, where wooden hay lofts mingle with plaster-front houses, used by the farmers or as for keeping their animals,” explained Rieir. “This is why we finished the exterior structure with a ‘coatingʼ in keeping with tradition - a wooden grid on all four sides, just as is used in alpine barns. However, as far as the interior is concerned, I decided to leave tradition behind me, and thereby free the design from any preconceived limitations. In this way I was able to look forward but also a little back in time to the beautiful years as a child.” The result is a house with two souls - outside prevails the spirit of a traditional alpine abode, splendidly inserted in its surroundings, while inside that of the visionary dominates, with areas free of limitations that are accessible, osmotic and innovative.

The revolutionary layout of the interior spaces is noticeable from the outside as well, creating a sort of counterpoint to the traditional facades of the other buildings in the area. The play on contrast can be seen on the north side of the house where the two copper-covered bedroom boxes are visible through the wooden grid, creating a distinction between the cold hard metal and the soft toned wood. On the southside, the box housing the sauna seems to break free of the glass jutting out of the house.

Beyond the sheer beauty of its design, Messner House focused on maximizing the use of natural light. The southern facade is completely made of glass, with the outside grid work set 2.5 meters from the glass, allowing all of the daylight to filter in. Meanwhile the colder northern facade is without windows. The roof hangs past the buildingʼs external walls shading its rooms during the hottest hours of the warm summer days. The interior lights also play a crucial role in creating spaces filled with light, and the communal areas with their tall ceilings have suspension lighting ensuring that each zone is perfectly illuminated.

Messner House, it seems, is able to encompass an architecture which is innovative and courageous, while at the same time evocative of the past and tradition. From the larch wood structure which holds up the floating boxes, to the twelve meter high trusses and sweeping open spaces, one can easily imagine being back in an old hayloft. “Thinking about it, I spent a lot of my childhood playing in barns,” remarked Rier, “and one of my lasting and favorite memories is of when I used to climb high up in the barns and then throw myself down into the hay. Maybe if I had not had that experience, I would never have come to design this house.”


Liana Bicchieri