Some houses suggest stories, while others simply tell them. BrolettoUno, the bed & breakfast in the historical center of Mantua, designed by Archiplan, is among the latter, in a building from the late 1400s that belonged to Federico II Gonzaga. Amidst cycles by the school of Giulio Romano, 19th-century paintings and stratifications that reach the 1970s, it has honed a style that makes antique and contemporary interact without attempting to ease the tensions between them.
“The meaning of our project,” says Diego Cisi, founder of Archiplan with Stefano Gorni Silvestrini, “lies precisely in the contrasts, the ambiguous relations, never taking sides.” BrolettoUno is a vacation dwelling with a view of the basilica of Sant’Andrea designed by Leon Battista Alberti, where the fundamental layout intuition has been to remove the partition that divided the living room from the bedroom, generating an environment organized in two parts by a screen in wood and Vienna straw.
The space enhanced by frescos from the 19th century is punctuated by custom furnishings that add further layer, including recent, not necessarily precious things. A world of possibilities, ranging from a chair made by hand based on drawings by Le Corbusier, to a bathroom door in sandwich board and pressed glass, with an anodized aluminium handle, “which contemporary taste struggles to accept, though in the 1970s it made sense, so we have decided to keep it,” says Cisi.
“In substance, we have tried to bring two worlds, old and new, together in a balance that ensures the identity of both. We prefer ambiguity and contradiction, instead of stylistic unity.”
In this dialectic of opposites the furnishings play an essential role. First of all because they are entirely custom made, starting with the Efelidi dining table by the same architects for Design Mood, in white poplar plywood, with crosswise slats joined without glue: a piece that displays the material not for its more noble surface, but from the inside, as in a ‘reversed poetic’ that adds ulterior ‘conflict’ to the setting.
The wardrobe is also a custom piece, made by dismantling the old casements of the house, frames with 300 years of history reborn for a new function, while the green inserts running along the walls are the result of the sampling of a cycle of frescos by the school of Giulio Romano done during the construction, pursuing a perfect shading by an expert artisan, Giampiero Danzini. One-offs not created by Archiplan including concrete lighting cubes by Davide Groppi, the Q model, resting on the ground, and luminous plaster pieces by Nicola Pianori.
“The furnishings form a sort of bestiary,” Cisi explains, “from the cantankerous to the refined, established in hybrid relations in the space.” For example, there is also a custom washstand in stainless steel for the bathroom, with a toilet brush holder in concrete and brass, again by Archiplan for Ever Life Design, winner of the German Design Award in 2008, almost a ‘talking’ object that lays claim to a place in the most intimate space of the house. At Archiplan they define their approach as one of a literary character: “In every project we try to find questions and themes capable of making it communicable, apart from the formal results.” A house with a story, in short. Ready and willing to tell it.
Project Studio Archiplan - Photos Davide Galli