Plays of contrast over the lake
Luca Gazzaniga, Michele Zago
On the hillside of Monte Bre above Lugano, a recently constructed single-family villa stands out for its stereometric and formal essentiality from the confused tangle of the surrounding building fabric. The project to radically remodel a building dating from the 1960s, was designed by Michele Zago and Luca Gazzaniga, a brilliant architect and erudite essayist and present-day exponent of the neorationalist “Ticino school” which between the 1970s and 1980s counted amongst its masters Livio Vacchini, Luigi Snozzi and Aurelio Galfetti, as well as the early Mario Botta. Set out along a northeast-southwest axis, the house stands on four different levels, which are distinguished from each other in terms of colour and layout. At the lowest level is a kind of “jardin d’hiver” which opens onto the garden with swimming pool, then the open-plan living area extending into an open panoramic balcony, the night quarters, and lastly the carport. This progressive layout aims to make optimal use of the morphology of the site and to facilitate access for cars. The horizontal sequence of levels is highlighted by the pronounced terracing and above all the large strip windows and glass balustrades that enclose the building in a kind of transparent skin, protecting it from atmospheric agents while offering an unobstructed view of the spectacular landscape. This solution creates the sensation of being literally suspended above Lugano and its bay. “The house becomes a dynamic superimposition of horizontal layers resting on vertical elements (the wall structure), the latter emphasised by the use of colour. For example, in the living room the orange of the end wall and the grey of the stucco used to finish the other walls,” explains Luca Gazzaniga. In turn the horizontal layers are highlighted using a play of contrasts in contraposition to the soft tones and matt and gloss surfaces of the vertical elements, materials with rough textures and dark tones, such as the slate black porcelain tile with varied shade effect from the “Pietre native” series by Casalgrande Padana which characterises the floor in the daytime area and the surrounding balcony. The decision to continuously tile the indoor and outdoor areas with large-format tiles that provide a hyper-realistic reproduction of raw slate enhances the depth of the living room and increases the dimensional perception of the spaces in general. The counterpoint, the play of material and syntactic contrast is in some ways the leitmotiv of the project. This can be observed more or less everywhere, including the bathrooms where it is emphasised by subtle variations. But it is most evident in the master bathroom where the black slate of the floor covering extends up one of the walls and the edge of the bath, “leaving the Venetian stuccoes the task of lending plasticity to the space”, explains Luca Gazzaniga. This emphasises the fact that living is a three-dimensional business and not a sequence of two-dimensional planes or showcases, beautiful but lacking in engagement.