Project di Massimo Famiglini, Franco Maria Rao and Debora Garra/ studio Spaceplanners
Photos di Think Puglia
Text di Antonella Tundo

A monumental building with a sculptural, baroque, impenetrable facade.

We are in the historical center of Galatina, a lively town in the heart of Salento, on a very narrow street, in absolute silence. The strong sunlight sculpts geometric forms with sharp shadows, creating new interlocks. The building is the impressive Palazzo Gorgoni, built around 1780, a typical local work of patrician architecture. The owners, Tiziana and Antonio, young Roman lawyers fascinated by Moroccan houses, decided to renovate the palace after a trip to Marrakech, with the idea of creating their own ‘riad’ in Salento, a place that becomes evident only when you enter, an unpredictable and unexpected experience. After the big wooden door one enters the courtyard, an indoor-outdoor filter. The whole building is organized around it, a baroque spectacle in Lecce stone, along the facades and the steps leading to the first floor. The contemporary character is not yet revealed even here, but hidden inside, covering everything like a discreet new patina. At the time of purchase the condition of the building was very different from the clean elegance that now seems to be its natural birthright. The renovation called for patient, precise work. The building had been eroded by neglect, split up into 12 housing units interlocking with each other, with a rather surreal layout. Additions had been layered over the old structure, covering it, weighing the original structure down with extraneous overlays. The challenge was to strip everything away, to reveal the elegance of the original form, making a skeleton ready for a new raiment, in contemporary, functional garb. The result is a work of architecture that becomes the setting for exceptional design pieces and artworks. This was the idea of the architects Massimo Famiglini, Franco Maria Rao and Debora Garra, of the studio Spaceplanners in Rome, who have opted for a renovation that leaves the enclosure intact, conserving its essence, respecting its history, but with a pragmatic look at the present, a wider vision that extends to the whole Mediterranean tradition. “We wanted to reconstruct an estate that in recent years had lost its original ‘patrician’ identity and been transformed into lots of apartments. This was our design focus. We then ‘blended’ everything and added the aroma and the air of Salento,” the architects say. “For the external casements, for example, we decided to use iron in a pearl gray version, with large glazings, for two reasons: to bring as much light as possible inside, and to keep in touch with the local construction materials, namely stone and iron. This zone has always been lacking in wood, and excessive use of that material would have been a philological error.” For the floors Soleto stone, a local material, has been combined with gray resin. This gives the spaces a contemporary look, while ensuring a tonsur- tone color range. Neutral, delicate shades are used to cover walls and casements, to enhance the true protagonists of the settings, the artworks, the design pieces and the life that unfolds inside these spaces, with a style and conception that are very contemporary, without exceptions or compromises. The layout is based on a forceful idea of hospitality: on the ground floor, three areas are set aside, like ideal plazas, for community life and relaxation, enhanced by the pleasure of water and the wellbeing of the hammam; on the upper level, containing the eight bedrooms, around the baroque balustrade of the 18th century cloister, each room has an independent entrance. Finally, the large terrace, with succulents, becomes the ideal spot to enjoy spring sunshine or cool summer evenings, with the light reflecting off the magnificent blocks of white Lecce stone.