Italian architecture firm MoDusArchitects presents its recently completed TreeHugger, the new Tourist Information Office building of the city of Bressanone, Bolzano, Italy and winning entry of an international competition held in 2016.

-text by the authors

Located just outside the historical centre of the South Tyrolean city, adjacent to the Bishop’s Palace of Bressanone, the eye-catching concrete building is the last episode in a series of “architectural homicides” dating from the 1800s up until the 1970s.

TreeHugger takes on the qualities of airiness and levity in alignment with the site’s antecedent structures, which were dedicated to the welcoming of visitors, with their respective features of slender columns, deep loggias, and delicate overhangs.The project raises its body on tiptoe and frees up the ground level to give it over to the city as a public space.

New visual connections are made, not only to the main building of the Bishop’s Palace, but also to the ancillary Chinese and Japanese pavilions that mark the corners of the Palace gardens. The exotic, sinuous curves of the corner pavilions are re-interpreted in the building designed by MoDusArchitects which transforms into a new gateway for the city of Bressanone.

The site is characterized by an existing monumental tree that governs the design. TreeHugger twists and turns around the central platanus to form an inseparable connection between nature and edifice. The visual and tactile qualities of the roughhewn walls of the bush-hammered concrete and the scaly bark of the plane-tree mimic one another in their juxtaposition.

With the tree trunk as the fulcrum, five arched spans release the building from the ground, accompanying the tree upwards to draw an open frame around the tree’s crown. In order to achieve the seamless, vertical surface of the outer concrete shell, the full height of the walls was cast from one flow and in successive sections to form a continuous 9-metre-high ring, within which the concrete plates were then poured. The curvature of the walls, together with the floor slabs form a collaborative composition in which the form, the structure and the building facades become one.

The building is almost entirely glazed on the ground floor, which houses the public spaces and info booths, to allow maximum transparency and permeability. The entrance is clearly marked by the inset windows and the large overhang that cantilevers out towards the new square. The upper floor, housing the administrative offices, is closed and enigmatic in the sequence of its convex surfaces.

With its welcoming curves balanced by the decisive concrete tectonic, TreeHugger strikes up a conversation with its historical context while organically attracting passersby and visitors as a magnet devoted to the sharing of local culture.


Facts & Credits
Project title  TreeHugger (Tourist Information Office)
Architect  MoDusArchitects (Sandy Attia, Matteo Scagnol)
Location  Bressanone, Bolzano, Italy
Competition year  2016
Design phase  2017—2018
Completion  September 2019
GFA  430 sqm
Project team  Irene Braito, Filippo Pesavento
Structural engineer  Luca Bragagna
Client  Bressanone Tourist Association
Contractor  Unionbau
Site works  Goller Bögl
Photography  Oskar Da Riz

Electrical installations  Elektro Josef Graber
Thermo-hydraulic installations  Pezzei
Stone and ceramic flooring  Bernardi & Figli
Carpet flooring  SAXL Bodenbeläge
Glass facade and windows  Huber Hannes
Subflooring and plasterwork  Winkler-Verputz
Drywall and painting  Cimadom Decor
Doors (interiors)  Aster Holzbau
Lift  Kronlift
Furniture  Jungmann, Trias
Millwork, custom finishings and furniture  Barth
Interior partitions and furniture  Tischlerei Goller – Anders Gmbh
Sheet metal  Stampfl Bauspenglerei
Custom metal  Ellecosta Metallbau
Multimedia  ACS