Bolzano’s mercantile past echoes through the arcades of Via Portici,the city’s main axis, which has been a trading hub for Italian and German speaking merchants since the 13th century. Located in this ancient neighbourhood, with a winding external staircase and round-arched portals is the house that is the backdrop for noa*’s latest interior design project, Bogen.
“The house has a fascinating past that goes back centuries and overflows with life and variety,” said Stefan Rier, noa* Founder and Lead Architect of the project. “With our intervention, we wanted Bolzano’s mercantile history to emerge clearly from these walls.”
The strong relationship with history was crucial in the definition of the project, both because the house is under monumental protection and because the design team wanted to emphasise to the fullest the original architecture of the arches to which the bistro itself pays homage, with the name ‘Bogen’ being German for arch.
On the exterior façade, the intervention consisted of a careful re-plastering in smoky white and an enlargement of the entrance arch. Here, a new tripartite black metal window follows the segmental arch and allows good natural lighting while providing an essential and timeless design.
For the interior, the underlying idea was to emphasise the four arches, which on both sides rhythmically mark the almost 19-metre depth of the room. To do so the designers worked on both the horizontal and vertical dimensions. In the first case, the existing internal height difference was resolved with an oak platform at the entrance, while a grey-beige polished screed was chosen for the floor. In this way, there is no strong colour contrast with the walls, and the harmony of the shades enhances the whole space. On the other hand, the team has designed the lighting so that the spotlights gently emphasise the curves of the arches. Except for the two tables at the end of the room, there are no pendant lights, and any additional lighting is provided by floor lamps.
The design brief from the client was to create a romantic bohemian atmosphere which included some personal touches from the owner in the form of signature floral compositions and installations. noa * took up these ideas and structured the design around a pivotal element; a welcoming seven-metre-long counter placed under a ceiling of flower baskets.
“The flower vault immediately became the highlight of the interior design,” explained Silvia Marzani, an interior designer at noa*. “The upturned baskets filled with dried flowers are a suggestive image that symbolises the transience but at the same time the beauty of life.”
The long table as a convivial and informal solution is a recurrent motif for noa*, and in this design, the counter is also a worktop on the right side, without any stools and housing technical and functional elements required in the space. Another interesting detail making this piece of furniture unique, is that each of the six legs are different, suggesting an improvised table that a family might have made for itself. A mirror covers the central base, making it disappear into the room. The top is a slab of Nacarado stone, chosen for its distinct veining and warm colour. Above the table, the owners personal creation of the large floral statement composition seems to quite literally pour from the ceiling.
The shared space of the large counter contrasts with the intimacy of the small tables on the left side of the bistro, sheltered by the arches and overlooking the alley. The feeling of privacy is further accentuated in the first pair of arches, with seating built into the recesses and walls covered in fabric with an elegant floral print. The niche closing off the room is also designed in the same way. In a constant dialogue between past and present, noa* chose to alternate new seats in wood and fabric with newly lacquered vintage chairs.
“We took care of every detail in this project and managed to create a consistent design with a strong contemporary character within a centuries-old structure,” added Marzani. “A step into Bolzano’s present and past at the same time.”
On a practical level, there are two service areas: the kitchen, which has been completely renovated and is located at the end of the room, and the toilets. These have been accommodated in a box, clad with perforated metal panels, on which the same floral motif of the arches has been printed. In this way the design combines the technical requirements of acoustics with the overall aesthetics.
> Since you are here, why not read about another one of noa*’s design masterpieces?
Main image credit: noa* / Alex Filz