With a Porsche Travel Experience in the Alps, you will encounter corner after corner, exciting mountain passes and a dreamlike landscape. But you will also be greeted by unusual modern buildings, like those dreamt up by noa*, an architecture and design studio from Bolzano, northern Italy. Its founders, Stefan Rier and Lukas Rungger, focus on the dialogue that exists between a building, its environment and people. Sustainability, regional materials and a sense of tradition combined with the confidence to take a leap into the future characterise their work.

Anyone who leaves the fast motorway routes from north to south in South Tyrol today and takes the time to make a few detours along the route will quickly discover that much has changed here in just a few years. Modern buildings keep appearing on the slopes, which complement the traditional Alpine architecture to form exciting ensembles. We are meeting with Stefan Rier and Lukas Rungger, the founders of noa* - network of architecture.

When we arrive in the small village of Seis am Schlern in our Porsche 911, it becomes immediately apparent where we are heading, even without looking at the navigation system. A building called the Messner Haus stands out yet at the same time blends in with the village architecture. Here, traditional elements have found their way into the future. When we reach the front door, we look in vain for a keyhole. Instead, Stefan lets us in with a fingerprint.

Red Porsche 911 drives past house with wood panelling
For the Messner house in Seis am Schlern, architects Stefan Rier and Lukas Rungger followed South Tyrolean tradition yet delivered a visionary design

A house of dreams

The Messner Haus has been built in an environment that required a highly sensitive approach from the people who designed and constructed it. It’s situated at the foot of the Alpe di Siusi, 1,100m above sea level, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its breathtaking landscape. It was therefore important for both Stefan and Lukas to respect the original construction and architecture features of the village. But for Stefan Rier, who as the house’s owner was also his own ‘client’, the project also offered the opportunity to personalise his house using memories from his own childhood and to break away from traditional customs. The result is a house with two opposite souls. From the outside, a traditional Alpine house blending into the beautiful surrounding countryside. Inside there is a visionary soul at play, the surprise of a space without clichés. It is open and innovative.

We look back at the past with one eye and at the future with the other
Lukas Rungger Architect and co-founder of noa* - network of architecture

We are welcomed into an entrance area reminiscent of a theatre with dark, heavy curtains – Stefan pulls them aside and the view opens up into the impressive interior. On the right there is a large couch, on the left is the kitchen, with tiles running from the floor to the work surface and features a long dining table. A window stretches in front of us, providing a view of an impressive rock formation jutting into the Alpine sky behind. On the ground floor there is a common room, a kind of piazza for spending time with friends and a large kitchen for cooking together. The house develops vertically, and the classic spaces are replaced by ‘floating boxes’ positioned at different heights and connected by stairs and walkways. Climbing up feels like climbing to the top of a mountain itself.

Looking down to where two men are standing and talking
The revolutionary arrangement of the rooms at the Messner Haus enhances privacy and intimacy with increasing height

Taking influences from everywhere

Stefan and Lukas founded noa* together in 2011. Lukas studied in Graz, Austria and worked in London, Brussels, New York and Milan before he realised that metropolises like London were too small for him and that he could be more creative back in his native Alpine world. Stefan studied architecture and interior design in Ferrara and Milan, where the two met while working for the renowned architect and designer Matteo Thun, himself from South Tyrol. “We are opposites,” explains Lukas, “like two different circles that meet and complement each other in a figure of eight.” At this, they look at each other and laugh. The two have forged relationships with people from other disciplines. They believe that this interdisciplinary collaboration with artists, philosophers and psychologists from all over the world provides the ultimate added value to their architecture. Conventional design is expanded so it becomes more complex, intensive and richer. Before they founded their office together, both of them gained diverse cultural and social influences, at home and abroad, that guides and shapes their work today.

Man browsing through bookshelf, second man stands near him
The access paths in the Messner Haus are not only functional connecting elements, they also provide space for other rooms, like the library, which is adjacent to a sauna box

A park grows beyond itself

Not far from the Messner Haus, a hotelier commissioned noa* to add a suite wing to his hotel. The final design for the Floris Green Suites used the hotel’s park as the central theme of the architecture, with the final design reminiscent of tree houses in which nested cubes stand on stilts in the hotel park. They interfere as little as possible with the beautiful surroundings, giving the impression of naturally grown structures.

Two men standing on balcony, mountains in the background
Stefan (left) and Lukas’ design for the Messner Haus incorporates the dramatic mountain scenery in which it is built

See architecture in dialogue with nature on a Porsche road trip

Stefan and Lukas say they want to know the stories behind the houses they design and get to know their souls. It’s about creating a dialogue with the house and the environment – “Old and new must come together,” say the two architects who now also have a presence in both Berlin and Milan. While building throughout Europe comes completely naturally, their favourite projects are nevertheless those in the Alpine environment that has shaped them since their respective childhoods, something the participants on the Porsche experience become readily aware of during their road trips.

Two men with backs to window looking at each other
noa* overcame challenges in the design development of the Floris Green Suites hotel extension with great sensitivity to its surroundings

The choice of material, a desire to reduce everything to its essentials and a conscious interaction with the landscape are the cornerstones of their designs. The boundaries between inside and outside are blurred. The cities that continue to fascinate them and the nature of the landscape they grew up in had a lasting impact on their work. The result is a contemporary architectural philosophy that we encounter time and again on our Alpine Porsche tour, a new feature of the Alpine experience to join the clanging of cowbells, the majestic mountains and, for us especially, great driving roads. 

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