Parametric Architecture Rattles The Italian Alps

With the Paramount Alma Residence, PLASMA Studio places a contemporary and well considered wake-up call in a sleepy town of quaint chalets.

Tucked away in the northernmost part of Italy’s South Tyrol province is the picturesque town of Sesto. The thousand-year-old hamlet sits at the base of the bluish-hued Dolomites and is noted for its evergreen pastures, sunburst skies, sleepy alpine charm, and…contemporary architecture?


Unlikely as the pairing of people and place may seem, for architects PLASMA Studio, their recent structures in Sesto effectively function as a microcosm of their work. In the last several years, in both striking contrast with and complement to the quiet mountain town, they have produced a pair of villas and a small hotel that mix contemporary form with traditional materials. Their Paramount Alma Residence is the latest of these, and it strikes a careful balance between experimentation and context to great effect.

The project is an addition to a ’60s villa and guesthouse. “It was not a main issue to integrate the design in the existing structure,” PLASMA Studio partner Ulla Hell tells Co.Design. “We rather meant to clearly distinguish old from new.” The timber-lattice structure forms a small prism that contains a private residence with washroom and other living spaces, topped off by a large rooftop garden and terrace. Fractured views of the Italian Alps leak in through the thin bands of glass that punctuate the nearly all-white interiors.

Where the original building prizes platonic geometries, PLASMA Studio’s intervention makes use of angular planes which unfold in a snakelike manner. It’s perched at the bottom of a slope, stretching from the ground to the top of the villa in what the architects consider a “connecting spine” linking the guesthouse to the site’s topography.

The formal strategy is an extension of the Strata Hotel, one of the firm’s other projects in the region, just a stone’s throw from the Alma addition. There, the wooden-slat facade similarly extends from the landscape into a geometric translation of the surrounding hillside.

About PLASMA’s adept alpine integration of the traditional with the modern, architecture and landscape, Hell explains: “One could almost say that the new flirts with the old, touching it and then again peeling off it.”

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.