Projects

Villa De Bernardi - Turin

A restoration project in harmony with history

In Turin, a project to convert a splendid early-twentieth-century Liberty style villa into an office building involved restoring the decorative elements of the period and setting them in a context of functionality and comfort. The ceramic floor tiles played a key role
Author
Riccardo Bianchi
Architect
Studio Proteo s.r.l.
Surfaces
COTTO D'ESTE
Year of completion
2016

Working on a historic building is always a challenge. How much interpretative freedom can be taken with respect to the original construction? When embarking on the restoration project for Villa De Bernardi, a building located in Corso Francia in Turin’s city centre, the architects from the firm Proteo, Guido Incarbone (principal), Francesco Brayda and Silvia Buson, had no doubts. The approach they adopted was to preserve and restore the original façade, to discreetly replace decayed structures and strip away the superfluity acquired over the years, and to alter the layout only when necessary to change the intended use of the building from homes for the elderly to the headquarters of a financial company. The house is a gem of Turin Liberty architecture, but not without touches of historicism. It is a rather subdued expression of Liberty compared to the more flamboyant style of Pietro Fenoglio’s masterpiece, the Lafleur residence that stands opposite, but at the same time it shares the architectural climate that dominated the city in the early twentieth century following the International Exposition of Modern Decorative Art and the success of the Art Nouveau pavilions designed by Raimondo d’Aronco. This is especially evident in the interior stylistic features such as the staircase, the gratings over the windows, the balcony balustrades, the door and window frames and the ceilings. “Our idea,” said Brayda, who coordinated the project, “was to adopt a neutral, discreet approach that would be able to improve the building as a whole.” The division of the residential and service volumes distributed over the three above-ground floors and basement determined by the previous use was abolished and the layout restored to a situation more similar to the original, apart from the few points where the conversion to offices required open-plan spaces. The philological restoration of the decorative details focused above all on the offices, which in the design project look out onto the street, while the service areas maintain greater attention to comfort and look towards the interior. The stucco work, mouldings and columns were restored, while the window frames were replaced taking care to replicate the original profiles and materials but introducing double glazing to completely insulate the working spaces from the loud noise of the intense traffic of Corso Francia. Unity is given to the entire project by the neutral colour of the walls, which emphasises the natural light, and above all the large-format square floor panels which extend over almost the entire surface of the complex, creating a reassuring sense of continuity. “We needed to replace a thin linoleum floor with one of similar thickness and a colour that would be consistent with the rest of the building,” explained Brayda. Ease of maintenance, cleaning and durability were further essential characteristics. The choice fell almost inevitably on the Kerlite3plus Over series in the Loft finish and 1 x 1 metre size with a 3.5 mm thickness, a material with high decorative impact that combines the above-mentioned characteristics with ease of handling, a very useful quality in renovation projects where it is frequently necessary to make cuts on-site to solve problems of out-of-square walls, splayed jambs and so on.” For the surface coverings in the bathrooms, the architects chose another Kerlite product from Cotto d’Este, the Kerlite3plus Elegance collection in the Via Farini finish, a very elegant dark coloured ultra-thin porcelain floor tile (thickness of just 3 mm) with unmatched elasticity and strength. “Our choice was guided by the desire to create a more intimate and warmer atmosphere in these spaces,” concluded Silvia Buson. “And the Elegance Via Farini tiles met this need perfectly.”

Tiles
Cotto d'Este, Kerlite3plus Over - Loft collection; Kerlite3plus Elegance Via Farini collection
Type
porcelain stoneware
Sizes
100x100 cm, 50x100 cm - 100x100 cm
Colours
Over, Via Farini
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0,05 %
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): conforme
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): conforme
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): conforme
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): conforme
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): conforme
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): conforme
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): conforme
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): conforme
Certifications and awards
ECOLABEL
LEED
EMAS
ISO 14001
NF UPEC
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