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  • 08.16.13

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?

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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.

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