modus architects has completed the design of a tourist information office for the city of bressanone in northern italy. positioned just outside the historic center, the project was realized after it was awarded first place in an international competition back in 2016. the scheme is characterized by the striking concrete structure that wraps around an existing tree, and from which it takes its name – ‘treehugger’.
the recent intervention by modus architects forms the final part of a series of ‘architectural homicides’ that have been built between the 1800s and the 1970s to welcome visitors into bressanone. appearing almost to lift off the ground, the new tourist office is designed to take on a quality of lightness, in alignment with the site’s existing structures, which feature slender columns, deep loggias, and delicate overhangs.
as the name alludes to, treehugger is designed to snake around the huge tree in the center of the plot, creating an inseparable connection between nature and the built form. to further cement this link, the course texture of the bark is mimicked in the bush-hammered concrete exterior by its rough-hewn finish.
with the monumental tree serving as the centerpiece, five arched spans puncture the ground floor level, effectively raising the volume and forming a frame around the trunk. the tourist office is almost entirely glazed on this level, which houses the public spaces and info booths, to allow maximum transparency and permeability. the entrance is clearly marked by the recessed windows and large overhang that cantilevers out towards the new square. the upper floor, housing the administrative offices, is, in contrast, closed within the convex concrete surface.
in order to achieve the seamless surface of the outer shell, the full height of the walls was cast from one flow and in successive sections to form a continuous 9-meter-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 façades become one. with its welcoming curves balanced by the heavy concrete, treehugger relates to its historical context while organically attracting passersby and visitors to explore the local culture.