Award-winning architect Diébédo Francis Kéré has created a stone and wood pavilion encircled by wild grasses in the Palazzo Litta, a historic palace in Milan.
Taking cues from the social and spatial dynamics of a typical African village, the Courtyard Village aims to carve paths for social encounter and gathering among visitors. Defining this communal ground is an elevated platform surrounded by a ground cover of native Italian grasses. Atop the platform stand three open, circular shelters made of stone, whose shaping and materiality dually express a sense of transparency and mass. Overhead, a singular over-hanging roof of bamboo protects and shades the village community below.
The installation features the first chair designed by Kéré. Called ZIBA, the piece references traditional African stools that are shaped by carving solid logs with handmade tools. The ZIBA stool, made of scented cedar, reinterprets this process using an advanced digital technology. The name of the stool refers to a playful Burkinabé expression that discourages idleness. The piece was designed by Kéré for Riva1920, the Italian brand specializing in solid wood furniture.
The Italian company Casone produced the pavilion’s stonework, which conveys a sense of lightness and transparency. “In search of the ideal expression of material, the close collaboration between Casone and Diébédo Francis Kéré aims to reinterpret the most primitive construction method, piling stones, in an innovative and audacious way,” said the team. Six stone varieties were used in the pavilion, drawing connections to the materiality and craftsmanship of both the historic palace and surrounding cityscape. The renowned landscape company Euroambiente supplied the pavilion's wild grasses, which grow spontaneously along Italian rivers, along with the bamboo stalks.
Encompassing 500 square meters, the courtyard sits at the heart of the Baroque-style Palazzo Litta. Formerly owned by one of Milan’s noble families, the storied palace has long served as an important venue for cultural and political events. Grand parties for figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Margaret Theresa of Spain have taken place there. “I very much like the power of Palazzo Litta’s architecture, the welcoming courtyard and the spacious rooms where in every corner you discover surprises,” says Kéré. “This is an excellent setting in which to show contemporary design.”
Courtyard Village is the centerpiece of the exhibition “A Matter of Perception: Tradition as Technology,” which explores how homegrown traditions go hand in hand with modern technology. The show was organized by the Belgian publication DAMn° Magazine and the event planner Mosca Partners. The exhibition was on view as part of Fuorisalone 2016.