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05.07.2014
Tuscan Geometry
Asymptote Architecture undertakes a cultural master plan in Italy.
Courtesy Asymptote

When Hani Rashid was flown out to Tuscany he did not yet know the scale of the project he would be undertaking. The principal at Asymptote Architecture joked that he thought he was being commissioned to do a patio, or a farmhouse, or maybe a villa for a wealthy oligarch. He quickly learned that it would be much more than that. Asymptote had been selected by a local company to create a cultural master plan for the rolling hills of Italy.

For the idyllic setting, Asymptote is designing new landscapes and modern cultural spaces that will become more than a flashy tourist center. “It’s sort of the anti-thesis of what we see so much of these days,” said Rashid. “These sort of local projects that are just about drawing eyeballs, and tourism, and dollars.”

 

Instead, the “Peccioli Cultural Masterplan” will provide new cultural programing for the community. But while the Asymptote-designed amphitheater, music center, and Etruscan museum might represent the “anti-thesis” of tourism architecture, they will not be fading into the Italian background.

Asymptote did not design the buildings to mimic the historic backdrop. As Rashid explained, the firm designed them to play off the surrounding towns without veering into what he called “pastiche historicism.” The structures, though, are not entirely void of context.

 

The planned amphitheater and piazza—which are expected to break ground this fall—borrow heavily from Tuscany’s iconic natural landscape in both form and function. The translucent, textured amphitheater, which will host concerts and performances, rises and rolls out of a hillside like an engineered extension of the earth. The airy piazza, which will accommodate social events like weddings and parties, is covered with a sleek, white canopy that resembles flower petals. These structures are covered with fabric canopies that are highly reactive to the natural world. They open with the sun, close with the rain, and engage with the wind. Rashid described the canopies as a “porous, living, kinetic envelope.” Rashid said the effect will be a kind of magic.

New biking and walking paths will complement both the amphitheater and piazza, as will gardens that evoke the region’s cultural history. The gardens will draw upon Renaissance and Baroque precedents and will include geometric elements reminiscent of the works of the region’s famous thinkers and engineers.

Henry Melcher