Fonti di Matilde
Location: San Bartolomeo, Italy. Rural Greenfield
Fonti di Matilde, San Bartolomeo, Italy
As American culture is exported around the world, European developments are increasingly affected by the low density and unremarkable design of typical American “urbanism.” In both cities and greenfield sites, large-scale, single-use developments are overwhelming excellent older urbanism. Fonti di Matilde offers a refreshing departure from that trend in the form of a village with 60 homes, a hotel, spa, and church on 138 acres.
The jurors were stirred by how the plan for Fonti di Matilde interprets New Urbanist ideas into Italian vernacular architecture. “We see a lot of fabulous places with horrendous things built up around them,” says juror Ray Gindroz. “Although this project is a resort hotel, it is built as a beautifully scaled town with housing and civic uses.”
The project is responsive to traditional local architecture and scale, creating a harmonious relationship with its natural and built surroundings. “This project shows that you can make cultural places that respond to regional architecture, within New Urbanism,” says juror Laurie Olin.
The hotel and spa are built around a historically popular thermal sulphur spring in the foothills near San Bartolomeo, six miles from the 150,000-person town of Reggio Emilia. Until 1985, the foothills were undeveloped and used as a dumping site. When construction of a nearby golf course catalyzed transformation in the area, regional and municipal administration requested that a spa be built at the thermal spring.
Typically, towns in the region are in elevated locations, and have a centrally located castle or church with a square. Roads are simple and direct, with access to every residence.
Following that tradition, this plan provides for a settlement just off the existing road. It is in the highest available area, providing a 360-degree view from the lonely mountains to the south to the inhabited land in the north. Buildings are grouped in a single settlement, preserving the open space that draws tourists to the region.
Most buildings in the village are two story, but three-story buildings are placed for emphasis, typically at a square or picturesque view. Like most residences in Italian towns, the dwellings are grouped in small multi-family buildings containing between three and six households, interspersed with a few larger villas.
The buildings all face the street, with courtyards or gardens in the rear. Each building has a ground-floor garage off the courtyard; the most important buildings also have underground parking.
As visitors enter town from the regional highway, they enter an urban environment. An arched entranceway and buildings close to the narrow street announce that this is a residential area, calming traffic. The street widens into a church square, but adjacent residential buildings keeps the wider street civilized. Gradual change of direction in the street enhance the pedestrian environment by breaking the prevalent winds.
The regional highway has many curves and sudden slope changes, providing natural traffic calming. As the road is improved to accommodate the spa traffic, the resort’s designers are demanding that its rustic image be strengthened. They want engineers to refrain from straightening the road, but to rather follow the natural contours of the land.
Juror Robert Campbell says, “It is what it is, an upscale resort village, and as such is superbly accomplished, both in the plan and in the elevation drawings.”
Transect Zone(s): T2 reserve, T6 core, SD district.
Project or Plan's Scale: Town
Land area (in acres): 138
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Project team designers: Studio Bontempi, The Prince of Wales's Alumni
Project team developers: Le Fonti di Matilde S.r.l.
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Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: -