In 2018 Ian Ritchie was invited to design an installation for the Arte Sella sculpture park in the forested Valsugana region of Trentino, northern Italy. Arte Sella’s underlying theme is that exhibits are site-specific and created using local, naturally found materials, making them part of and subject to the living cycle of the surrounding environment.
The October 2018 storm ‘Vaia’ devastated forests in north-eastern Italy, including those of the Sella valley and in Arte Sella itself, making impossible the realisation of Ritchie’s initial concept for a sculpture suspended from trees and moved by the wind upon them.
The revised concept: ‘Levitas – The third mountain’ is a response to that devastation. Its combination of lightness, delicacy and strength is intended as a symbol of nature’s and man’s resilience, expressive of openness and upward movement toward the future, and an opportunity to imagine beyond destruction and life’s immediate entropic nature.
‘Levitas’ is a free-standing sculpture made of 6cm wide strips of Italian red oak in the form of two connected anticlastic woven open gridshell structures – a ‘double saddle’ structure. These are defined by boundaries including visually striking three-hinged larch wood arches to which the two hyperbolic paraboloids are attached. The form was inspired by the name of the valley (Sella means ‘saddle’ in Italian) which recalled anticlastic structures Ritchie had helped design during his time at Arup’s lightweight structures group in the late 1970’s. It is one of only three tensile sculptures in the park.
The development of the geometry, the prototyping and the calculations were developed with the collaboration of Milan Polytechnic and D3Wood, fabricators based in Lecco.
Ian Ritchie’s contribution to the sculpture’s realisation was donated to Arte Sella and the work inaugurated on 30th August 2019.
A project by Ian Ritchie, supported by Ian Ritchie Architects Ltd – Thomas Rigby
Structural calculations: Ing. Marco Clozza, D3WOOD
Prototype and Fabrication: Ing. Marco Clozza, D3WOOD
Politecnico di Milano:
Prof. Marco Imperadori, Rector’s Delegate Far East – ABC Department
Consuelo Montanelli, Architectural – Engineering student
Serena Rosa, Architectural – Engineering student
Federica Brunone, PhD Candidate ABC Department
In collaboration with Arte Sella: the contemporary mountain
Emanuele Montibeller, Director – Curator
Giacomo Bianchi, President