An outstanding project based on the collaboration between Fabio Salini, Marco Bevilacqua and Corrado Papa. The new construction, on twelve hilltop hectares, faces Noto and a fascinating landscape, where the gaze reaches the sea, the countryside and the mountains. The house was built around the needs of Fabio Salini, a designer of artistic jewelry on an international level, who played an important role in the stylistic choices.
“The house had to be a personal refuge, a comfortable place far from the formalities of work and everyday life,” he says. “Full immersion in nature, an atmosphere of simplicity, relaxation and warmth, linked to the land and the location.
This is why I invited architects to help me to use wood and natural materials of local origin crafted by artisans, and to make a promenade through orange trees, like a street in the town: all elements taken from the tradition, generating a Sicilian character for a work of architecture that would not seem to belong here on its own. Without barriers between indoors and outdoors, structure and decoration.”
It all began in the Roman studio of Marco Bevilacqua, whose composition is based on the typological scheme of a small town in southern Italy, border by a linear structure and a space in front to use as a shared courtyard, separated from the main house and the central court.
The Sicilian architect Corrado Papa entered the picture later, supervising the construction and lending his expertise on local materials and crafts to add a Mediterranean atmosphere, enhancing Salini’s narrative.
In fact, the 600 square meters of construction follow a very rigorous, archetypal layout: a few one-story volumes with a simple linear form, arranged and connected along three main axes.
“Two cypresses flank the start of a raised stone drive that leads to the house, running along the terraces with stone walls that set the tone of the place, marked by different levels with plantings of olive trees, prickly pear cacti, palms and large agave plants,” Bevilacqua says.
“I began by designing Fabio’s residence around a large age-old olive tree, defining the volume with a C-shaped form. All the spaces have a relationship with this tree and the central courtyard, because the openings, starting with those of the living area, are aligned on the main axes, conceived to permit the gaze to cross the house and to reunite at any time with the surrounding nature.”
The annex for guests has been built behind this main volume, in the small wing partially set into the steps of the hillside. The empty space created between the two volumes has generated an avenue connecting the parts, representing the heart of the project. It has become that rural street Salini imagined, with the scent of orange blossoms, known as “i picciotti” which is also the name of the property itself.
This Mediterranean promenade is faced by the guestrooms, featuring high narrow openings set into the depth of the masonry, protecting the interiors from too much sun and prying gazes. The separation lines marking the small connecting staircases leading to the upper level converge at the swimming pool and terrace-belvedere, built into the flat roof of the long wing.
“The most exposed outdoor space has been discreetly positioned in the highest point, accessed only by means of the external steps,” Bevilacqua explains, “first of all because the swimming pool is not part of the rural tradition that has been chosen as the paradigm of reference, and also because from this point you have a spectacular 360 view of the Gulf of Noto, the Hyblaean Mountains, and the flat roofing of the house below.”
The carefully selected facings minimize visual impact of the structure, which is also ready for the use of solar panels on the roof. Hand-washed Noto stone used as the sole paving of the terrace on the upper level returns in all the spaces below, both outside and inside, “making perceptible, in a theoretical bird’s-eye view, a single form and a single plane, for the fullest insertion of the architecture in the landscape,” Papa remarks.
Sand-color stucco, a very materic, soft finish, spontaneously open to the patina of time, has been used for the walls and the ceilings with beams and boards. Painted iron has instead been chosen for the casements and grates that simulate solid reeds, bringing both shade and security.
“Also in the furnishings,” Salini continues, “I have focused on natural materials and neutral colors, with the desire – once again – to emphasize the harmony between the architecture and nature. Wood, cowhide, wicker, Modica stone, raw and wrinkled linen/hemp fabrics. Since the house is so rigorous and squared, I wanted to emphasize the high level of comfort offered by the spaces in the various moments of the day and the year. With a few delicate but incisive touches.
The vertical beech slats of the doors in the kitchen, for example, make up for the lack of cane lattice on the ceilings, whose large horizontal surfaces would have made it seem too much like a pergola. I also like the tapestries embroidered on linen by Allegra Hicks in the two lateral niches of the glass door in the living area, open to the old olive tree in the garden, where everything began.
These are site-specific pieces that interpret Sicilian landscapes, reinforcing the idea of nature that enters the home.”
Project Marco Bevilacqua - Fabio Salini - Corrado Papa
Photos Alberto Ferrero