Project Wespi de Meuron Romeo Architetti
Photos Hannes Henz
Text Matteo Vercelloni

The idyllic landscape Giacomo Leopardi describes in “L’infinito” – which “sitting and gazing” the poet grasps in its “endless spaces […] inhuman silences, and the deepest quiet” – is still conserved, in part, in this area of Italy.

This project of restoration and reconstruction addresses that landscape, through subtle, balanced solutions that reassemble the overall figure of a small rural settlement composed of a main house flanked by two smaller volumes for stables and an oven, and by a canopy open on all sides. The state of decay of the constructions, caused by the passing of time, had been hastened by the partial destruction of the main house, a compact volume with a square plan on three levels, paced by regular openings. Half of the house was severely damaged by fire in 1995. This situation dictated the lines of the project, marked by a dialectic relationship between the old and the new. The program called for a vacation home with swimming pool and guesthouse. In the farmhouse the existing walls, including the stone wall dividing the interior space in two, functioning as a central spine, have been mostly restored and conserved, while the roof has been rebuilt using traditional techniques: wooden main and secondary beams, terracotta, external roof tiles. The reconstructed architectural enclosure, featuring exposed brick and the use of traditional materials, is joined by new interventions, based on a contemporary sign. Besides the necessary structural bracing, integrated and concealed in the existing structure, in the interiors, where the three-story void caused by the fire has been conserved, the project proceeds in an abstract way, using continuous white to enhance the new floors and new dividers. This choice, together with the pale continuous flooring, creates a successful rhythm of detachment from the historical skin of the construction, giving the new surfaces the function of luminous screens that capture and amplify the light arriving from outside. In terms of layout, in the full-height space extending from the floor to the beams an island kitchen has been inserted, in stainless steel, with a nearby dining area overlooked by an open space on the third level. The dining zone is flanked by the staircase and the open mezzanine of the studio, which above the cooking island faces the large oak table. In the symmetrical part of the house, conserved in keeping with the original three-level layout, the ground level contains a large living area that combines two spaces, conserving part of the original divider wall. The luminous living room faces towards the outdoor canopy and the new swimming pool, whose linear geometric design is a reminder of an old village fountain. In this part of the house the two upper levels contain the bedroom zone, composed of four rooms stacked two by two, with independent baths. For the guesthouse, created in the original stables, demolition and reconstruction came into play, using the old salvaged bricks to reassemble the small construction where it was and in the same size, beside a large existing tree. The oven to the north, beside the entrance, has been transformed into a technical space for the heating system. An electric gate has been installed in the new walls towards the street. In the southern part, towards the cultivated hills, over a vast external pavement in terracotta beside the new swimming pool, the existing canopy has been reconstructed as an outdoor room, resting on strong squared brick pillars, with a cooking area and a fixed wooden table to connect the two masonry volumes that extend the terracotta of the pavement into the furnishings. Another link to the history of the place is supplied by the planting of a row of pine trees to the west of the house, and a small olive grove to the east.