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Castiglion del Bosco

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Preserved 100% or 3,200 acres of the site’s existing mature forest, which provides habitat for 6 species of beetle classified as Endangered or Near Threatened in Europe, as well as numerous bird and mammal species.
  • Preserved and restored approximately 400 cypress trees lining the entry drive into the estate. The 800-year old trees are an important element of the distinctive visual identity of the Val d’Orcia region, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, UNESCO has identified the loss of these types of trees as a potential threat to the conservation of this significant cultural landscape.

Social

  • Produces over 2,700 lbs of organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs per year in the 3,500-sf kitchen garden for use in the estate’s two restaurants and culinary academy.
  • Produces approximately 300,000 bottles of wine annually from the 170 acres of vineyards.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    EDSA

  • Project Type

    Resort/Hotel
    Working landscape

  • Former Land Use

    Residential

  • Location

    Castiglion del Bosco
    Montalcino, Province of Siena 53024

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  • Climate Zone

    Hot-summer Mediterranean

  • Size

    4,500 acres

  • Budget

    $28.2 million for landscape, $10.8 million for golf course ($83.7 million total construction cost)

  • Completion Date

    2009

Encompassing 4,500 acres of Tuscan countryside, the 800-year old Castiglion del Bosco estate is located within the Val d’Orcia region of Italy. Characterized by an iconic traditional working landscape of forests, farms and fields with dark green Cypress trees juxtaposed against the pale, rounded hills, this region has been added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. The tradition of involving architects and artists in the development of this deliberately visual and distinctive cultural landscape informed much of the preservation, development and management of the Castiglion del Bosco estate in its current form. The estate’s incarnation as a Guest Resort and Membership Club exemplifies sustainable design by preserving and restoring this historically significant landscape while improving economic, environmental and cultural conditions. In 2003, the neglected estate was purchased and restoration began - the historic buildings in the center of the site were renovated for guest suites and amenities while the 17th and 18th century Tuscan farmhouses that once supported the estate’s traditional agricultural activities were transformed into guest villas. The ‘sense of place’ embedded at Castiglion del Bosco has been brought into the 21st century through a commitment to restore and respect the sustainable traditions of the Val d’Orcia region while integrating the elements of a modern resort into the agricultural landscape.

  • Approximately 3,200 acres of existing mature forest was preserved on the site. These woodlands contain tree species such as pine, chestnut, oak, olive and cypress. In order to minimize disturbance to the wooded areas, redevelopment was limited to the core of the estate, and the golf course was sited in existing meadows.
  • Most of the estate’s existing vegetation and topography was retained, including a 2.3-acre vegetated buffer protecting the existing streams within the new golf course. 
  • Estate design and construction minimized disturbance and limited cut and fill, in order to reduce the impact on the historical landscape. Existing buildings were restored, building footprints were reused, the majority of site access routes were retained, and all new architecture was sensitively sited within the landscape.
  • Over 200 acres of vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and gardens on the estate are utilized for the traditional agricultural production of the region. The Brunello regional variety of wine made on-site is sold worldwide and served at the resort. The estate also produces its own olive oil, honey and grappa.
  • A 3,500-sf organic kitchen garden, designed by the Vatican’s garden landscaper in collaboration with the resort chefs, is home to over 180 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs, which provide fresh ingredients for the seasonal and regional cuisine of two resort restaurants and an on-site culinary academy where guests can learn to create traditional Tuscan dishes.
  • Facilities for outdoor recreational activities and over 24 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails throughout the estate encourage visitors to see and experience the unique cultural, working, and natural landscapes. During the restoration, 15.8 miles of existing trails were improved and 8.6 miles of new trails were added.
  • Native species account for approximately 70% of the new plants installed on the site. The natives are drought tolerant, aid in the revegetation of steep hillsides to reduce erosion, and support food production by attracting pollinators. They were arranged in large, simple masses, creating planted areas that would blend well with the surrounding traditional agrarian landscape.
  • Approximately 25%, or 37,500 sf of all new hardscape materials are pervious to allow for infiltration.
  • Cisterns installed below the core of the estate and at the villas collect water and store it for use in landscape irrigation.
  • Existing lakes were expanded and new bodies of water created to collect and reuse water for golf course irrigation.
  • The landscape design incorporates locally-sourced materials including stone, brick, terra cotta tiles, and wood, which were installed by local craftsman using traditional construction techniques.
  • All plants were sourced from a local, family-owned nursery located approximately 85 miles from the site.

Challenge

The Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and part of the Val d’Orcia Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park, exemplifies the beauty of a well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscape, yet also faces development pressures from tourism. In an effort to manage tourism, the region has begun to emphasize smaller hotels, agritourism and festivals celebrating local and traditional wine and food. As part of this significant cultural landscape, the Castiglion del Bosco estate had an important and distinctive working landscape aesthetic to preserve, yet in order to reimagine the estate as a modern guest resort, certain amenities had to be included. The planning and design of the site had to incorporate new amenities such as guest suites, swimming pools, restaurants, a spa, and an 18-hole golf course, while maintaining the traditional character of the cultural landscape, which included vineyards, olive groves, forests, the remains of a 12th century castle, and 17th and 18th century farmhouses. 

Solution

The client’s vision of restoring Castiglion del Bosco to the working agricultural estate and social center it once was, drove the site program and established the over-arching design intent of the project. The design solution was informed by the historical significance of the site and a commitment to respecting the sustainable traditions of the region with an objective to preserve, restore and highlight the existing cultural and natural landscape through a combination of strategies. Disturbance was minimized by restoring and reusing buildings for resort amenities and integrating the protected ruins of the estate castle into the resort center. The topography and landscape character of the site was retained as much as possible by limiting cut and fill during construction, and preserving over 70% of the site (3,200 acres) as existing forest and 200 acres of agricultural land for production. Gardens of native plants provide an aesthetic transition between the resort amenities and surrounding agrarian landscape. The landscape design included locally-sourced hardscape materials, installed by local craftsmen using traditional construction techniques.

  • While the planting design for a typical resort has a significant portion of ornamental and exotic species, approximately 70% of the plants used at Castiglion del Bosco are native to Tuscany. The native trees cost approximately the same as non-native species; however, the native shrubs cost about half as much as typical ornamental or exotic species, saving about 35% in shrub purchase costs.
  • Working with local contractors and craftsmen posed a challenge because they did not use the construction documents and details that had been created for installation of the hardscape materials. In order to ensure elements were built as intended, the process had to be modified to adapt to traditional construction techniques of the region’s vernacular. With input from the local contractors and craftsmen working on the site, the U.S.-based designers made the necessary adjustments to the details and specifications.
  • Landscape design and plant selection was originally completed by EDSA, a U.S.-based firm; however, once they reached the construction phase, they realized that regional knowledge would be key to a successful design. Local horticulture experts and landscape architects were hired to help complete installation of the gardens. Several of the areas across the 4,500-acre site were found to have slightly different micro-climates and variations in soil, requiring the adjustment and fine-tuning of the original plans. Earlier involvement of local specialists would have saved time and eliminated redundancy in the designs for certain areas.

Project Team

Client/Owner: Brunello Development Group, LLC
Architect: ArchFlorence
Landscape Architect: EDSA
Interior Designer: Hispano Suiza
Engineer: Viva Engineering SRL
Golf Course Architect: Tom Weiskopf Designs
Market Position and Imaging: InterCommunications
Peer Review/Landscape Architecture: Marco Battaggia
Landscape Contractor/Nursery: Gruppo Mati/Piante Mati

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect was responsible for all site planning and landscape design, working with a team of local designers, specialists and craftsmen to preserve the unique cultural and environmental heritage of the region and site. This included: observing and researching the vernacular of the local landscape and architecture, inventorying existing conditions, providing construction oversight and observation, and creating a landscape maintenance manual for the project.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Victoria Chanse, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
Research Assistant: Jen Salazar, PhD candidate, University of Maryland
Firm Liaisons: Richard D. Centolella, Principal and Derek Gagne, Senior Associate, EDSA
April 2013

Topics

Habitat creation, preservation & restoration, Cultural preservation, Food production, Food garden, Local materials, Native Plants, Permeable paving, Rainwater harvesting, Trail, Trees, Cultural landscapes

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