“Living means wellness, and nothing should be left to chance. It is a poem that is interpreted case by case, always generated by the site. But I don’t like loose ends. Everything has to be part of a productive process that starts with the sketch, and then the drafting, and reaches a virtual level that permits almost maniacal control over the various phases of implementation. This makes it possible to achieve perfection, down to the details, even before reaching the worksite, where our long-term craftsmen get to work, along with my painter, who I will always call Giotto.”
This is the philosophy behind the design approach of Antonio Iraci, with extensive experience from Albania to Lebanon to Brussels, driven by sunny Sicilian roots (the studio Iraci Architetti is based in Catania and Milan). And it is fully expressed in this recent project: a villa built from scratch on the slopes of Mt. Etna, in constant dialogue with the light of the island, thriving on the balancing of opposites: emptiness and fullness, light and shadow, solidity and transparency. This work of architecture has been conceived to become a precious treasure chest, essential, open, responsive to the needs of a Mediterranean character sublimated in its basic elements: earth and water, fire and air. A place where everything is possible, including a brilliant encounter with Made in Italy, interpreted as in a programmatic manifesto of the overall layout .
Villa Etna has the form of a letter L, and extends in the landscape with two above-ground levels – the ground floor for the living area and master suite with its various appendices, and the first floor for other bedrooms. Lengthwise, it is accompanied on the main side facing the sea by a swimming pool that reflects its image. The volume follows the contours of the land in a discreet way, avoiding confrontation with the volcano behind it, but without forgetting its material and narrative impact. “We have designed a flat roof in bird’s-eye lavic stone, which exploits the slope of the land to become a spatial system by means of two cuts, which provide access to the two main levels of the dwelling, where the lower one is organized around an internal patio, the indispensable typological feature of the Mediterranean house. The same openings are then transformed into optical cones inside the spaces, offering carefully gauged perspectives, also towards the volcano,” Antonio Iraci explains.
Thanks to the large windows, interior and exterior become parts of a continuum where the interpenetration is underscored by all the materials that grant form to the composition as a whole. Besides the volcanic stone, shared by the various horizontal surfaces, from the overhanging wings of the elevations to the ceilings and all the way to the floors, the other main material in the story is chestnut wood, cladding the opaque walls, with folds, interlocks and pleats, light milling and brushing, completing the insertion into the surrounding greenery. The furniture design is an integral and complementary part of this exclusive mood, almost suspended in time: the added value of an architecture whose distinctive trait is the precious allure of its details. This role has been almost totally assigned to the sophisticated collections of antoniolupi, different in terms of personality and character, which enhanced every corner of the domestic landscape.
The grammar includes storage cabinets, compartments built into the walls, wardrobes, carpets, wallpapers, bath fixtures, tubs and showers, shower heads inserted in the ceiling, accessories; in the syntax these parts have become sartorial works of micro-architecture, which interpreted in different forms, materials and finishes vary the temperature of the rooms. “This has been an excellent opportunity to communicate the potential of our production, which is already ripe for systematic insertion in other spaces of the home, not just the bathrooms and the spa, with coherent custom solutions,” says Andrea Lupi, art director and CEO of antoniolupi. “Furthermore, this architecture has become a true proving ground in pursuit of a counterpart that would mitigate the image of the volumes and the thick stucco finishes, dilating the trajectories and projections of light on the surfaces. In this sense, we have applied a palette that focuses on thermo oak, bronze and fumé glass, lacquer finishes, mirror panels, wallpapers coordinated with tones of white and black, and natural fabrics.”
In the semi-basement space set aside for the wellness island, equipped with a spa with multiple water jets for total relaxation, this balance between the two spirits of the project, a monolithic structure that is transformed into something ethereal, is even more perceptible. Here the ancestral bond with the earth and the water of the territory bears witness to an exemplary encounter between cultures and histories, emotion and technological innovation, know-how and contemporary values of quality of life. The same dialogue in an abstract Sicilian key is magically reveals from the outside near the staircase and the lawn, where two sculptural white basins in white Carrara marble designed by Paolo Ulian welcome guests, and the openings already offer a glimpse of the secret essence of the place: form inside form.
Project Iraci Architetti - Photos courtesy of Iraci Architetti, antoniolupi