In Sicily, on a knoll connecting the inland to the city of Noto and the sea, near the town of Marzememi and the Vendicari nature reserve, a new construction is in tune with the architecture of the territory, without denying its contemporary character

The Sicilian baglio is an architectural type, a courtyard building with ancient roots. Mention is made of the ballium as early as the 11th century, referring to fortifications built to protect castles. The bagghiu, in Sicilian dialect, gradually came to indicate a courtyard building, typical of the farm complexes of the time that sprung up across the territory as productive outposts. A series of constructions that are not camouflaged in the countryside, but at the same time become part of a process of symbiosis with it, in their complex, diversified interpretations as settlements for ‘owners’ and ‘peasants.’

Bagli and towers

This tradition, together with the reference of the towers that studded the coast to keep watch over the sea (the most famous is the Torre Sveva at Vendicari, not far from this site), informs the design of the country house illustrated on these pages. The site is a knoll in one of the last outcroppings of the Hyblaean Mountains prior to the sea, seen in a spectacular view.

Between the sea and the Hyblaean Mountains

In its upper portion, selected for the new construction, five age-old olive trees were the most outstanding landscape feature. Around them, and with measurements suggested by their distances, a pentagonal house has been designed, facing the sea on one side. The higher volume is a tower with a few carefully placed openings towards the city of Noto, and larger windows towards the Tellaro plain, extending to the coast.

A history of the territory

The reinterpretation of historical typologies has not implied any stylistic drifts; the project updates a history of the territory, featuring recognizable architectural landmarks, in a contemporary way. The new pentagonal enclosure organizes a volume along a dry stone wall, using the same material to separate the original baglio from its extension at the back, through a zone with a portico. The trapezoidal area is also marked by a perimeter wall in stone, and contains a rectangular swimming pool at its center.

Crossed by nature

The outdoor space protected by the wall and thus made ‘sacred’ is joined in a seamless way to the countryside, with which the whole construction establishes an explicit dialogue. The tower and the low volume grafted onto its side, functioning as an architectural ‘hinge,’ open towards the south with the glass doors of the dining area and the larger windows of the living room. The entire design seems to seek connection with the surrounding nature, especially in the direction of the sea, and then gradually closes for protection towards the north, with smaller openings the emphasize the solidity of the compact walls. The latter are finished with lime stucco, which adapts to changes over time, interrupted only by a few squared windows placed in an apparently random way, and by a vertical cut corresponding to a small loggia.

Ancient and recycled materials

Age-old construction techniques, the use of local materials like Noto stone – for the internal floors and outdoor pavements – salvaged roof tiles and wooden beams, iron casements and faces in metal wire made by Antonino Sciortino that run in alignment along the front leading to a slightly elevated terrace: everything contributes to underline design research that focuses on the characteristics of the location, taking the value of materials as an “expression of a territory, a culture and a craft,” says the architect Corrado Papa, creator of this work of architecture.

Project Corrado Papa - Photo Matteo Cirenei