Lukas Rungger and Stefan Rier, founders of Noa*, have an approach to architecture that breaks the traditional mould, starting with its working group: a dynamic network of experts that changes according to the needs of the project. Leagues away from a self-referential nature, from their Bolzano-based studio (which they opened four years ago), the two oversee the direction of an ensemble project that is never repetitive.
“The working group changes continuously,” they say. “It’s necessary for tackling interdisciplinary challenges and for coming up with innovative ideas. Noa* was conceived as a stage for architects, interior designers, graphic artists, and stylists, as well as for musicians and historians, so as to be able to dynamically benefit from the expertise of specialised professionals with experience in various fields. noa* is at the core of this creative network, managing the transfer of information between the various operative sectors that revolve around the central theme of architecture.”
Working primarily in the hotel sector, we’re often tasked with designing common spaces which, at times, become actual night clubs with stages for live music. In this case, understanding musicians’ needs is important to developing spaces that take full advantage of acoustics and stage presence. These are the kinds of details that make all the difference in a design and elevate it to the next level of quality.
Ethics, responsibility, and sustainability are at the foundation of your design, which also includes landscape recovery. What new model for living do you wish to create?
Living in Südtirol this is a given, surrounded as we are by mountains that have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s natural for us to tackle any project from the perspective of enhancing and promoting the territory to the fullest without offending it. This doesn’t mean creating boring or classic spaces. Rather, each time represents a new challenge in which to incorporate innovation, seeking to combine ancient construction ‘know-how’ and techniques with modern materials, shapes, and concepts. This model of architectural design leads to the development of a lifestyle that is connected to nature, that interacts with it, drawing the greatest benefit possible.
What feelings do you hope to evoke in those that experience your architecture?
Above of all we strive to turn the stories that our clients imagine into reality.
How do you make urban and rural aspects coexist?
Conscious contact with the landscape in which we build is of fundamental importance to noa*. Exploring the genius loci, studying the spirit of the location, the choice of materials, reducing the building to its essence: these are the reference points upon which the philosophy of noa*’s method is based. The design project is seen as a means for becoming aware of shapes, details, and historic and modern building techniques. Quality is achieved through the scrutiny of architectural history and cultures, through the dialogue between tradition and innovation. We take time to understand the location in which the project will be constructed, to perceive the atmosphere, to immerse ourselves in the local circumstances. This is all part of our research so that we may then begin thinking, planning, and designing.
What do you mean by the concept of ‘emergence’?
noa* aims for overall value rather than the sum of single elements, a holistic and fundamental strategy. This is why we consult with the experts on the team and in the network. By doing so, traditional design becomes richer, more complex, and more intense.
Your creations are always quite evocative. Is this a result of your creative process?
For the Gloriette hotel, for example, noa* made the archway one of the key elements, raising it as much as possible and seeking a union between function and aesthetics. Often this allure manifests through a type of camouflage with the surrounding context. As with the facade of the Silena hotel, which blends with the marsh on which it is built and with the mountain behind it through the use of laser-cut metal panels, following a design that recalls the branches of trees, all dark in colour to further conceal the structure. For the chalets of the Zallinger hotel, we brought the old construction methods of Alpine retreats into a modern dimension and used interlocking wooden planks for the facade. In Seehof as well, the structure mimics the lake next to it. In this case we used wood and lake-like colours, like dove grey and beige, to turn the architecture into a continuation of the surface of the lake itself.
The interiors are also conceived according to the same criteria of incorporating traditional and modern elements.
We always aim to create a connection between exterior and interior environments, between classic and modern. We do this by analysing history, tradition, and the habits and customs of those who lived in those places in the past, and then applying a modern interpretation during the design phase. We create pairings that are always a blend of traditional and modern aspects, whether in terms of materials and fabrics or in terms of design and building methods.
Tell us something about Seehof, which recently won the 2018 Ahead Europe Award in the ‘Spa & Wellness’ category and arrived in 4th place for the 2019 Ahead Global Award.
It was an enormous honour and accomplishment, but it was even more rewarding to have won both the Europe and Global Ahead Awards in the ‘Guestrooms’ category with the Zallinger project. It was an important milestone for us to have had the opportunity to compete among such high level projects. Winning confirmed the quality of noa*’s design approach and inspires the team to continue pushing beyond its limits a bit more each time. The victory is a wonderful acknowledgement of the effort we’ve made and provides the entire team with enormous motivation.