The hillside covered in vineyards, with its terraced stone walls, kitchen gardens and paths suspended between earth and sky, is magnificent; the view over Locarno, the Maggia Delta and the Magadino Plain, spectacular. The new Convent of Saint Agnes, belonging to the Congregation of the Sisters of Ingenbohl, is set amid typical nineteenth-century constructions of a lemon-house and hanging kitchen gardens, drawing together all the different elements in a single combination of interconnected indoor and outdoor spaces. The approach from the road above runs alongside a tree-lined driveway and the green roof of the new building, the pattern of which will in time connect with the layout of the convent gardens. On reaching a little square with a panoramic view, a statue of Saint Francis welcomes and beckons to enter.
The entrance hall gives access to the chapel, which forms a separate volume. It is characterised by openings designed to capture the light in sequence during the course of the day. The belfry housing the old bell from the hospital in Chur, rung manually, brings in the morning light. The midday sun illuminates the tabernacle from the Church of Sant’Eugenio in Locarno, while the cross by Selim Abdullah, made especially for this space, quivers on the altar. We continue by passing through a library that faces a courtyard open towards the lake landscape. The refectory, directly connected to the garden, is on the lower level. The common area of the sisters’ rooms looks onto a private and secluded cloister where the convent’s medicinal herbs are grown. The twenty bedrooms are arranged on two levels and oriented towards the surrounding landscape east and south. The static structure provided the opportunity to give rhythm to the corridor: the seven cross-walls create places to meet outside the rooms. The pre-existing winegrower’s path, parallel to the contours of the slope, joins the lemon-house to the hanging kitchen garden and becomes the starting height for the new construction which, supported by stone walls, partly covers the path, thus creating a covered walkway projected onto the landscape.
Photographs: © 2020 Marcelo Villada Ortiz
Photographs B/W Homepage: © 2020 Luca Ferrario