The architect as surgeon? “It was like that, a job to do with a scalpel, at a specific point, with anesthesia, to achieve a final result of painless healing,” says Corrado Papa,

Architect has interpreted the desires of Simone and Maria Bemporad, a young couple of international culture in love with the city of Noto and a small but elegant building from the late 1800s, vacant for years, which was once the residence of a surgeon eminent in the neighborhood of Santa Caterina, a maze of narrow streets and courtyards on the edge of the historical center.

“Intervening in an aggressive way would have put a particular spotlight on this work of architecture,” the designer says, “detaching it from the consolidated, fragile and neglected urban context and the local community.

An elderly lady spoke to me when the scaffolding had been removed, thanking me for having restored dignity to her neighborhood, which made me feel very proud indeed.”

This is because Corrado Papa has not just renovated the building, which is no longer isolated and now sports a stucco finish in tune with the pale hues of the local context. In a second phase he has also restored the system of narrow streets with which the building establishes a dialogue, an operation funded by the Bemporads, aware of the problematic issues of a little-big town in a period of economic difficulty.

He has brought the cobblestone pavements with white segments back to life, installing urban furnishings like a fountain and stone seats, creating new gathering places shaded by climbing plants. Inside the building, he organized a process of breakdown and reassembly of the parts.

“I had to combine multiple units on three levels, altered by layers over time and by contaminations of taste,” he explains, “taking the Sicilian identity of the house into account, but also the international character of my clients who were going to live there.

The choice was to create new, large, open spaces by making passages, setting up careful symmetries, conserving the great variety of materials without concealing the scars and wrinkles, thanks to the help of expert craftsmen: the white stone of Noto (on the ground floor), pietra pece (on the first floor and the staircase), humble cement tiles (in the bathrooms of the guestrooms), ceramic tiles from Caltagirone (in the master bedroom).

And then sandstone, in the figure of a single wall, from the ground to the roof, as a connection for the various levels: a feature of architectural continuity that stands out thanks to the different color with respect to the other walls, left with the white pallor of lime plaster applied by hand.”

The harmonious syncretism of the materials, like that of Sicilian courtyards, is enhanced by the warm enveloping light that makes every presence a protagonist, finds completion, following a process of rediscovery, on the small terrace.

“It has become,” the architect concludes, “a discreet observatory for watching the ritual of the sun: the new beacon that restores the position of the 19th-century house with respect to the fabric of Noto, framing the cathedral dome on one side, and the island of Capo Passero and the sea on the other.

Photos Alberto Ferrero – Article Antonella Boisi