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noa* sensitively transforms 17th-century monastic garden into wellness haven

30 Sep 2021
Architecture and interior design firm Network of Architecture (noa*) has breathed new life into the former Monastery Serve di Maria Addolorata in Trentino, situated at the northern tip of the iconic Lake Garda in Italy.

Noa*’s vision was to restore the building’s spiritual dimension and make its most distinctive elements the main features of a charming hotel, named Monastero Arx Vivendi.

The 40-room complex and its extensive garden are encompassed by original seven-metre-high walls and date back to the second half of the 17th century. The noa* project consisted of two main phases; renovating and converting the monastery into a hotel and the development of a new 500sq m wellness area.

Half of the Monastery building, which also hosts a church and cloister, where nuns continue to live, has been left untouched.

Situated in the monastery garden, the spa consists of seven light glass and metal volumes positioned along a stone spine, which look out onto the location’s lush green courtyard.

Inside the spa, everything is designed to generate a sense of calm and relaxation, from the milled wood panels that echo the stylised pomegranate symbol of the monastery, to the benches of the bio sauna, which encourage meditation and are reminiscent of a prayer room.

“Monastero Arx Vivendi is a refuge that takes you back in time, closely centred around the history and the particular features of this place,” explains Francesco Padovan, the noa* architect who developed the architectural project.

“Every construction choice, every material and detail, has been studied to draw on the majesty of the pre-existing context, exalting it and giving it new life.”

The wellness area includes three relaxation areas; one complete with loungers; another facing the Monastery’s biolake – a pool of natural water with dark blue tints; and a spacious third outdoor area in an open gallery in the courtyards.

The spa is also home to a bio sauna and a Finnish sauna, hammam, two treatment rooms and a thermal cycle that revolves around a large heated dark stone. Spa and wellness supplier the Hofer Group helped realise the saunas and steambath.

Noa* finished the wellness area with materials and decor to create a warm and calming atmosphere – details include warm tones of bleached oak, linen-effect textiles and cotton.

From a design perspective, the underlying vision was to maintain the typical monastery architecture, preserve the original design of the internal paths and extend its geometrical rigour to the new volumes, paying close attention to the choice of materials and colours.

The spa’s connecting spine – composed of a series of pillars covered in Vicenza stone and a horizontal architrave in pre-fabricated and sandblasted concrete – was constructed to match the stone pilastrade of the raised channel that runs along the eastern side of the convent.

“When designing this area, our aim was to create a dialogue with the surrounding agricultural landscape more so than with the monastery,” concluded Padovan.

“To do this we used very simple elements with strong structural clarity. The light metal framework, organised in pillars and beams, is inspired by the characteristic lemon houses of rural Lake Garda.”

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