Living in a Ruin Like Piranesi by CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

Living in a Ruin Like Piranesi

CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati, together with Italo Rota, has unveiled a new hospitality project called Roccia in the hills of Monferrato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Digital technologies, including fine-grain point cloud LIDAR scanning, make it possible for a new timber skin to be digitally fabricated and inserted seamlessly inside the ruins.

This allows the complex to be habitable again while preserving the antiquity of the old structure and the natural elements that have taken hold. By blending the natural and artificial worlds, the design suggests a new approach for renovating historical buildings. Roccia – the Italian word for “rock” – is a hilltop monastery-turned-farmhouse in the heart of the Piedmontese countryside.

The site has been in decay since a fire broke out in the early 20th century. Decades of neglect have further deteriorated the bricks and invited moss, ivy and saplings to set in. Its current conditions evoke the vision of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the 18th-century artist who saw the ruins of Rome as the starting point for the city of the future.

CRA’s intervention preserves this harmony between natural and artificial, reviving the old building without severing its present embrace of bricks and leaves. The contemporary intervention is primarily made of prefabricated wooden elements slotted inside the ruined brick walls. The two houses, built 400 years apart, form a symbiotic relationship with each other and with nature.

The endeavor was led by CRA Make, the “digital factory” of the studio, and is expected to be completed in 2024. Informed by an evolutionary approach, CRA has adopted a mix of design schemes to restore buildings of different ages and conditions, allowing them to be reinhabited while celebrating their history.

For instance, the Pankhasari Retreat project employs tech-driven strategies and local crafts to imagine a co-living and co-working complex in the Indian Himalayas. In AGO Modena, jointly designed with architect Italo Rota, and artist-engineer Chuck Hoberman, CRA converts a 18th-century hospital into a cultural space with a reversible, origami-shaped kinetic roof above the courtyard. Source by CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati.

  • Location: Casale Monferrato, Italy
  • Archietct: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati
  • Creative Lead: Italo Rota
  • CRA team: Carlo Ratti (Founding Partner), Mykola Murashko (Project Manager), Emanuele Carlo Bussi, Andrea Cassi, Iratxe De Dios, Gary Di Silvio, Marco Guarany, Mohamed Yasser Hariss, Pasquale Millieri, Chiara Morandini, Ginevra Nazzarri, Francesco Strocchio, Gianluca Zimbardi, Mario Daudo, Andrea Galanti, Valentina Grasso, Severio Panata, Nicola Scaramuzza, Luis Henrique Souza Campos, Anna Spaggiari, Greta Stefanova, Alessandro Tassinari
  • Mechanical Engineer: Ivan Pavanello
  • Structural Engineer: Paolo Vagaggini
  • Year: 2023
  • Images: Courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati