An uninterrupted expanse of ceramic
One thing is in no doubt: this home was born of the shared vision of both owner and architect. « Throughout the process, we made every effort to put the Client at the centre of the picture, » explains the architect, Enrico Turella, who co-founded LuoghiCOMUNI, a firm of architects with offices in Rome and Milan, with Chiara Celidoni and Massimiliano Nico. « Right from the outset, we decided to turn conventional wisdom on its head, » confides Turella, « overcome the paradoxes and platitudes associated with the world of architecture and the role of the architect, and call into question the traditional idea of what a design firm should be. We strive to offer our Clients a real, authentic meeting place, where professionalism and experience are pooled to the common good. » In other words, we endeavour to replace self-referencing architecture – which is primarily a monument to the figure (and ideas) of the architect – with a shared, bespoke architecture « intended to take on board the real needs of the Client. Inevitably, this gives rise to different points of view, » adds Turella, « but when one person’s vision collides with another’s, the impact often generates the kind of energy that helps develop a mature, coherent design. » This is certainly true of the single-family, three-storey villa built in the 1960s in the Acilia district of Rome, which the three young architects have totally remodelled, both inside and out.
In this case, the owners’ passion for a particular type of porcelain tile turned out to be the starting point for the entire project. « Curiously, » recalls Turella, « we developed everything around a specific material: our Clients were hooked on a versatile ceramic product that draws inspiration from wood, and reworks its colours and grain patterns. » The product in question is Soleras by ABK, in beige, which is reminiscent of the wood used for making barrels for ageing wines and spirits such as sherry, madeira and brandy. The long, floorboard-type porcelain tiles (in sizes 20×80 and 13.5×80 cm) reinterpret the nuances and textures that are created when fine wines are left to age for long periods in barrels.
The architects came up with the genial idea of using the ceramic covering as a leitmotif for the entire project. So not only does it run along the floor throughout the entire house (from the stairs to the living-room, and the bedrooms to the bathrooms), rising and falling here and there to create handy niches (such as the storage area for firewood), but steps out into the garden too, where it marks out walkways, shrubberies and relaxation areas. The result? Permeable, open spaces – both physically and visually – where the indoor world communicates with the outdoor world in a completely seamless dialogue.
But that’s not all, because the challenge also involved using the same type of ceramic to create a kind of wall-garden in the inner courtyard. So the 250 square metres of the house are modulated by the choice of material, which in turn is emphasised by the choice of wooden furniture made from reclaimed Venetian briccole’ (the oak piles that mark out the navigable channels in the lagoon), in a finely judged interplay of colour and texture revolving around the porcelain ceramic covering.
« The interior space, » concludes the architect, « is distributed over three floors above ground (including an attic floor) and a basement floor that’s partially below ground-level and accommodates a utility room and relaxation area. » The furnishing makes a perfect match for the extensive use of ceramic, to create plentiful, light-filled open spaces. One of these is the ground floor, which is used almost entirely as a living area: here, the dining and lounge zones have an open-plan design, but their different functions are highlighted by a change in level, and the dramatic presence of a wood-burning stove with glass panels on three sides: the vertically-opening front panel disappears, when required, into the underside of the staircase above it, leaving the grate on display at floor level.