Superuse on site: Villa Maggiore

Oct 11, 2018


Curated by Superuse on Site, Césare Peeren and RE-USE.EU team.

Photos by Denis Guzzo

An Italian villa is used as a teaching ground by Dutch waste architects to spread circular design tools, methods, and thinking to Italian designers, architects, contractors, and industry.

The project culminated in waste materials from industries around Milan being up-cycled to design furniture for the 450m2 interior fit-out which was designed and built on-site in 4 weeks in ‘Furniture Jam Sessions’ with 14 international waste designers.

The ‘Villa Maggiore’ project led by Superuse on Site, Césare Peeren also used waste materials in the building renovation, minimal remodeling, and passive and zero-energy systems to transform the disused villa to zero energy, circular holiday home to showcase circular design in Italy.


Above: Mel Feldmuller is enjoying the view from Villa Maggiore’s second floor.

The challenge has been primarily about reducing the amount of energy used in the house, ensuring that the power needed is produced as sustainably as possible. If the ‘Villa’ can produce all energy it needs, it will technically become a ‘zero’ energy home.

Firstly, the actual climate conditions need to be examined across different seasons to determine a proper heating and cooling strategy. Prevailing hot and cold winds and temperature exchange across different sides and floors can be implemented through the Villa’s architecture, increasing the comfort and micro-climates.
Being the Northern Lakes area traditionally rich in silk industries, it was not difficult to find many types of dead stock textiles used as a bumper to insulate the walls from the room’s space.

↑ Above image slider: creating the silk bumpers for the wall insulation experiment and the central room of the 1st floor during the silk bumper installation.

↓ Below: the very first improvised office table by Superuse on site at Villa maggiore. 


Scouting materials from laptops and on the road

During the end of 2017, in collaboration with Cèsare Peeren, the team Harvest Map Italy was formed. Harvest Map is an open-source web platform for sharing waste material finds. With the support of Dutch and local organizations, the platform is now available in the Italian language, implemented with many of the finds scouted during the workshop at Villa Maggiore.


.Funded by: ‘The Netherlands Stimulerings Funds’.

.Taught by: Césare Peeren, Mel Feldmuller, Elisa Saturno.

.Supported by: Politecnico Milano; Tempo Riuso (Isabella Inti e Matteo Persichino).
.Harvest conducted by: Elisa Saturno.
.Masters students of the Temporary Use course of DASTU departmenT of the Milan Politecnico.
(Raffaella Nigro, Angela Panzeri, Daniel Romano).
.Other design and architecture students (Stefano Napoli, Delfina Villa Graziani Bandiera).
.Professor Paola Altamura and Giulia Chiummiento (La Sapienza University, Rome).
.Harvest Map Italy | Italian translation funded by: Dutch Embassy, and, Consulate general of the Netherlands in Milan.

RE-USE.EU | Superuse, Rotterdam, NL | Giacimenti Urbani, Milan, IT

↑ Above: the Harvest Map Italia team supervised by Mel Feldmuller and Elisa Saturno at Villa Maggiore

Waste materials suitable for use in the project were ‘harvested’. Italian architecture and design students were taught how to find or ‘harvest’ new resources for design in ‘Harvesting Workshops’ held at the Villa. More than 130 materials with potential for use in design and architecture were in the following year in the region around Milan.

Above image slider: the Furniture Jam Sessions: Superuse on site, at villa Maggiore.
Below image slider: an overview of the harvested material for the project.


Above image slider: an overview of the harvested material for the project.
Below image slider: some insight of our days at Villa Maggiore, THANK YOU to our super chef Paolo!


REFUNC: Tokyo,Paris and Melbourne

Holiday hotel rooms with shower and washbasin on the second floor. 

Superused materials: wood; window frames; exhibition perspex; wooden roller blinds; fire hose; fire extinguisher trolleys; fire extinguishers, nozzles, and brackets; foam board; lightboxes; wooden louver doors.

Above: the main view of the Tokyo room by REFUNC.
Below image slider: some details from the Tokyo room.


Above: the main view of the Paris room by REFUNC.
Below image slider: some details from the Paris room.

 ‘Melbourne’ by Refunc

Above: the main view of the ‘Melbourne’ room. Below: some details.

Co2RO: “Firehosescape”

Superused materials: foam board sandwich panels, fire hose, fire extinguishers, fire extinguisher nozzles, fire extinguisher trolleys, deadstock laminate, foam sheets, first split neoprene, metal post holders.

Above: main views of the living room and the ‘Firehosescape’. Below: some details.

Studio CIFRA: dining table, dining cabinet and Cloak room wardrobe and storage cupboard.

Superused materials: Larch wood from discarded school fence, exhibition waste materials (engraved perspex, Black and White display boxes, wooden boxes, MDF board, metal frames, foam board), sheets of laser cut metal waste.

Above: main views of the dining room by Studio Cifra. Below: some details.

Studio CIFRA: Cloak room wardrobe and storage cupboard.

Superuse on site Team ‘Boxed’: travel chests and cupboards in ‘Sao Paulo Favella’, ‘Beijing’ Room and ‘New York’. 

Superused materials: black and white display boxes, fire extinguisher nozzles, wooden roller blinds, louver doors, fire hose, horse riding jump pole, fire extinguishers, neoprene.

‘Beijing’ Room  by Superuse on site Team

‘NEW YORK’  by Superuse on site Team


Bathrooms have been restored with leftovers of Malta. Malta is a water-based resin product by I-containers. It is already known as an eco-friendly resin alternative.


This project is about the transformation of an Italian villa to zero energy, circular holiday home by introducing and using locally sourced waste materials. The restoration and furniture fit-out has been realized by minimizing interventions, using passive heating/cooling strategies, and, topping up remaining energy needs with a zero energy system. 

The interior fit-out is entirely from waste materials sourced from the Milan region over the previous year. The interior was custom built on-site by an international group of waste designer/builders in 2 x 2 week ‘furniture jam sessions’.

As for music jam sessions, though materials and conditions were supplied there was no pre-defined plan or design. 

Above: Césare Peeren and the team of Harvest Map Italia during material scouting at Villa Maggiore.


‘Villa Maggiore’ is in the Northern Lakes district of Italy. It is a 450m2, 1920s villa spread over three floors, a cellar, and attic. The second floor was never finished, and, the villa was not used for the last ten years. The second floor had no windows, unfinished concrete walls, an exposed wooden ceiling, and no fittings.


The ‘Villa Maggiore’ project was led by Superuse on Site, Césare Peeren with the support and collaboration from a large group of Dutch and Italian participants (See above: Villa Maggiore Project Fact Sheet). Workshops and lectures are often conducted integrated within the projects to facilitate the process and knowledge exchange across countries and designers.

Césare Peeren is one of the co-founders of Superuse Studios which pioneered waste up-cycling in Architecture over twenty years ago. Since then Superuse Studios has been developing tools and strategies to make architecture and building more sustainable by minimising new resource and energy use. Césare now has a mobile studio that lives and works at project sites.

Above: Césare Peeren during material scouting nearby Villa Maggiore.

See also the short video report about
→ Harvest Map Milan Expansion


Waste materials suitable for use in the project were ‘harvested’. Italian architecture and design students were taught how to find, or ‘harvest’ suitable waste in ‘Harvesting Workshops’ held at the villa. From this more than 130 waste materials with potential for use in design and architecture were found over the following year in the region around Milan.

 Publicly available waste materials were posted on ‘Harvest Map’, an open source web platform developed by Superuse Studios to connect suppliers and users of waste. As a result of this project, the Italian version of Harvest Map was developed. Harvest Map Italy was launched in March 2018 at ‘Fa’ la cosa giusta’ fair in Milan. Twentytwo of the waste materials found were used in ‘Villa Maggiore’. Other projects have now also used materials posted on Harvest Map (Williams bar (Milan); exhibition stand at Fa’ la cosa giusta (Milan) 2018). Local contractors used leftover first cut industrial neoprene as sound insulating floor underlay. This was topped with a re-used exhibition floor. They also used project leftovers of Malta, a natural water based resin (used instead of tiles) which was applied in a new way so that product and colour variations became an asset. In early 2019 leftover metal sheets from a laser cutting company will also be repurposed for a fence and for pillars of the pergola to be built in the garden at the Villa to carry solar panels. 2 x 2 week Furniture Jam Sessions produced the new upcycled interiors. Four teams of waste designer/builders lived and worked on site as designers-in-re- sidence to design and custom build from supplied waste materials 3 hotel bedbedrooms with showers, 4 holiday home bedrooms, storage room, lamps, dining room, the lounge and a cloak room for 14. 

The ‘furniture jam sessions’ supervised by Césare Peeren were done with waste artisans from The Netherlands, Berlin, Barcelona, and Milan. The project is coming to completion with the installation of solar panels and various passive and technical heating and cooling systems are being finalised. New works were minimised and kept essentially to 4 bathroom upgrades, the addition of double glazed windows and an insulated ceiling to the second floor. Even the unfinished second floor was left relatively untouched, with only a transparent coat of paint to seal the concrete and wooden beams. 

Passive heating, cooling and ventilation strategies are to: use the different existing microclimates and create some new ones inside and outside the villa; use the existing rock mass for summer cooling; use the existing central stairwell for natural ventilation; use shutters and windows to variously shade, insulate and ventilate as weather conditions allow; install ground pipe for constant 14 degrees celsius ventilating air in conjunction with the natural tendency for warm high staircase; install insulating curtains to insulate interior walls; and install internal insulating window shutters. The zero energy system developed for the villa uses two systems of air-water heat exchangers powered by solar panels to produce hot water for showers and low temperature convectors.


See also the short video report about
→ Harvest Map Milan Expansion

2017.09 | The Harvest Map Italia team supervised by Mel Feldmuller at Villa Maggiore


  • 2017.03 – 2018.06 Climate study; renovation plan; bathroom designs.
  • 2017.09 – 2017.10 Harvest Map workshops with Italian design/architecture students and practitioners to teach skills regarding how to source locally available waste materials for use in design and architecture.
  • 2018.03-2018.04 Harvest Map Italy (in Italian) launched with lectures, presentations, and fair exhibits in Italy, including ‘Fà’ la cosa giusta’.
  • 2017.10 – 2018.07 Development of zero energy system and passive strategies to manage internal villa climate.
  • 2018.09 – 2018.10 450m2 interior fit-out with 2 x 2 week ‘furniture jam sessions’.

Find out more about the working approach 

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