Photos by Giuseppe di Viesto
Text by Virginio Briatore
The apartment is located at San Vito dei Normanni, a name that is already a geo-semantic reservoir in its own right: land of saints and conquerors, Apulia, province of Brindisi, where the Appian Way ends and the sea, Salento, Greece, the Orient begin.
The project comes from the intuitions of Angelica Longo, a young local architect who after taking a degree in Ferrara won a study grant from the Apulia Region for a master’s program in Interior Design at Domus Academy in Milan. The grant called for winners to apply their know-how in their region of origin. The project of Appartamento Lago was the business model Angelica Longo presented after graduation, again winning a grant from the Region for 25,000 euros. The 120-sq-meter apartment is in an old family residence in the historical center, on the ground floor with access from one of the main streets of the town. The 18th-century building conserves all the original characteristics of the architecture of the zone: large rooms in a sequence to reach an internal courtyard typical of Mediterranean houses, thick stone walls with limewash finish, vaulted spaces. The restructuring is by ArchstudioLongo, where Angelica works along with her father Enzo Longo, an architect with extensive experience in the field of historical and monumental buildings, and her sister Danila Longo, also an architect. Structural consolidation, reorganization of the internal openings, finishings and carpentry, and new bathrooms; all without disturbing the original layout of the structure, and without altering the spatial form of the rooms. Masonry, vaults, alcoves, original chimneys and cisterns have been renovated and enhanced for a contemporary lifestyle. Local workmen have made it possible to operate according to the local construction tradition, using materials found close at hand for low environmental impact. Furnished in collaboration with the Lago team using the modular products of the Venetobased company, the apartment has two sequences of beautiful vaults, with arches, niches, alcoves, a mezzanine, unexpected windows that look to the sky, and glass doors leading to the double courtyard and garden. The wooden floors are by Listone Giordano, designed by Michele De Lucchi, while the Minervino stone flooring has been designed by Angelica Longo, using the same formats. The peninsula kitchen between the garden, the hearth and the dining area is a perfect machine, a bridge-table connecting worlds: water, fire, refrigeration, dishes and food are all within easy reach and ready to establish a dialogue with the architecture. Meals are served in the entrance room, directly connected to the kitchen also by an internal window. The dining area has a very beautiful vault, as Angelica Longo explains: “It is called a ‘carrozza’ vault, with loadbearing walls, and its form is a cross between the barrel vault and the stellar vault.” The light of the gods and that of men coexist under these white arches, in the garland of rooms leading to the small garden, with different citrus trees. As Vittorio Bodini, a poet from Salento, wrote: “The sheets flapped on the terraces, orange, lemon, tangerine.” At the back of the garden there is a small guestroom with a bath. The glass doors facing the garden are protected by a discreet micro-awning in sheet metal, designed by Angelica Longo, painted white and built into the masonry. The lighting has been designed with great care, and about 100 lamps offer all the light that is required: in the kitchen there is intense light on the worktop, for the preparation of food; for moments of relaxation small lights peer out of niches, and precisely oriented lamps permit reading in bed or on the sofa; conversing or listening to music, one notices the openings for light inserted directly in the architecture during the restoration phase. High on the walls, the Lago bookcases seem like large fretwork, simple and marvelous at the same time. Angelica Longo: “This bookcase made of simple shelves organized in an original way is like a textbook: people look at it, learn and understand that they can do it themselves, in their own way.” Kerakoll natural lime has been used for the internal and external finishing of the walls, making the building sustainable and contemporary. The presence of photovoltaic panels, perfectly integrated, provides electrical energy for the spaces, with lowconsumption lighting fixtures. The result is special space for living: a private home, a vacation home, a place for events, a house to share where the key ideas are hospitality, Mediterranean living and respect for the planet.