An open, luminous, organized vacation home, made with simple architectural features deployed in a complex manner, drawing maximum benefit from the parts woven horizontally and vertically, inside and outside, between light and shadow, rugged and smooth. A house conceived in terms of contrasts, an alternation of openings, glimpses and views towards the landscape of Vendicari, enclosed by massive stone walls like a bastion of a fortified citadel: the white, precise construction of the villa.
Oppositions, but also illusions, because the enclosure wall, which marks an abrupt, continuous margin towards the arrival zone, is broken into fragments on the other sides, like the forceful remains of an archaeological dig, allowing the boundary between garden and countryside to become blurred and almost vanish. The rugged walls, in dry masonry of local stone, face the brushland of age-old mastics, typical Mediterranean shrubs, which the new architecture has conserved. The horizons open to the countryside are a poetic pause, which in the short curved route between the parking area and the house offer a compendium of the smells and colors of Sicilian nature. Along this short pathway one reaches the entrance: a deep breach, almost a vague Mycenaean remnant, that pierces the thickness of the walls bent in an ‘L’ towards the inside, leading into the pleasantly shady space of the house.
From a setting dominated by the ochre tones of the arid soil and the dark green of the brush, one passes in a ritual atmosphere underlined by the narrowness of the opening to a place of white light, of polished concrete floors, where the full-height openings frame images of the ‘courtyard’ garden border by the local stone walls: the brilliant green of the orange grove, the vibrant shadow cast on the lawn by the brise-soleil awning, the reflexes of light from the infinity pool and – in the background – the full, spreading luminosity of the nature reserve and sea of Vendicari. “The project stems from my family’s passion for Sicily and Vendicari,” says the architect Marco Merendi: “the light, the aromas, the view of the sea are the elements that made us fall in love with this place and convinced us to build this house here for ourselves, to enjoy the Sicily we love.”
Though with a professional practice based in Milan, in recent years Merendi has done another project in Vendicari, in 2015, where he already had a chance to experiment with the presence of hewn stone walls and white surfaces. In this new project, “the challenge – Merendi explains – was to build a villa of little more than 100 square meters that would seem larger, with an ample space for the living area and the kitchen as the core of the house, including the outdoors in the domestic setting.” Sicily, then, where the decisive presence of nature requires the architect to make a specific commitment, to convert the force of the landscape into beauty, energy and comfort.
Hence the control of solar radiation, which for many hours in the summer can be far too strong, becomes a theme behind all the design choices: the form of the rooms, the arrangement of the openings, the transition between outdoors and indoors. The most telling example, in this battle between the architect and the sun’s rays, is the canopy extending from the living area towards the outdoor space, which Merendi calls the “Arabian garden,” which in effect combines all its essential parts, almost in miniature: the lively, light shadows projected by the canopy, the water, the long pool in volcanic stone, the plants.
Like the “date palm,” Merendi explains, “which is the symbol of the house. It links back to the tradition of Sicilian estates, where one was always planted, a single specimen, to make it possible to identify the house from a distance. We wanted to continue this tradition, transporting it into a work of contemporary architecture.” Another example of the environmental focus on sunlight and temperature can be found in the two bathrooms that also extend outside, protected by a high wall in local stone to create a relaxation zone with an outdoor shower. Beyond the glass door, an intermediate setting is thus created, protected but open to the sky, for a shower or just to sit in the shade in an isolated, intimate spot that encourages contemplation of the landscape. www.thethinkingtraveller.com.
Project by Marco Merendi - Photos Alberto Ferrero