A ceramic-clad house
Villa Tornavento, named after the eponymous village – a group of houses just a stone’s throw from Malpensa airport – has a twofold relationship with the landscape and history. The Lombard village was the site of a famous battle during the Thirty Years’ War and an important crossroads under the Austrian Empire, as evidenced by the presence of the nearby Austro-Hungarian Customs House, now the Ticino Park Centre. In the 19th century it became a flourishing agricultural centre under the administration of the Parravicino noble family.
But it is above all the surrounding landscape that makes Tornavento one of the most beautiful villages in Lombardy. At an altitude of 170 metres above sea level, the village offers stunning views across the Ticino valley towards the snow-capped peaks of the Alps.
This unique location provided the inspiration for architect Sergio Achini when redesigning this single-family home. This is his account of the project.
“The villa was created by renovating a 1960s building of little architectural value and with no connection to the village’s rich and fascinating history, the traces of which can still be seen today. Examples include Villa Parravicino, which overlooks the town square, and the rigorous architecture of the nearby former Austro-Hungarian Customs House. The famous 1636 battle between the Spanish and the French is re-enacted each year in the meadows and woods that surround Tornavento, marking another important event in the life of this small town. But our aim was not to restore the building in a historical style. In agreement with the client, we wanted to create a house with a clearly contemporary look, inspired by the past and the beauty of the location but adopting a modern language.”
In the surprising and visually striking solution found by the architect, each side of the building adopts a different style. The public façade facing onto the street is dark, solid and austere (“inspired by the sober architecture of the former Austro-Hungarian Customs House”, he explains), whereas the interior elevation overlooking the garden and the valley below is defined by the lightness and transparency of the large window.
The interplay of elevations with their different aesthetics is the result of intelligent experimentation in the use of materials, particularly porcelain stoneware, which the project exploits to the full in terms of composition, performance and application.
“Marca Corona’s Stoneone series, chosen in the colour Dark, proved perfect for our purpose, which was to obtain a rough, quarry stone-like surface capable of conveying the image of monolithic, mono-material architecture,” explains the architect. “The modern 45×90 cm porcelain stoneware surfaces were installed seamlessly on top of an external membrane, which also gave the building a high level of energy performance. Glass is the principal material used on the interior-facing elevation,” continues Achini. “A 10-metre high window extending over the entire façade offers splendid views of the enchanting Ticino valley and of the last light of sunset behind Monte Rosa.” The ceramic façade cladding also extends over the entire exterior paving on the garden side of the building, creating an unusual and surprising play of perspectives. The walkway, patio, barbecue area and even the interior of the large hydromassage tub in the garden all feature the same porcelain stoneware slabs as the street-facing façade, creating a sense of continuity of colour and material that blends in perfectly with the sobriety of the overall project.
Marca Corona, Stoneone
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): Ev ≤ 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): A
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 150 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): conforme
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): conforme
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): S ≥ 1800 N
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R11
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): conforme
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): conforme
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): conforme