Private villa - Malta

Parallel planes

A nondescript Maltese villa has been reinvented through a series of ingenious and highly functional technical and aesthetic solutions that enable it to blend in with the surrounding landscape and the beckoning sea on the horizon
Riccardo Bianchi
Luca Peralta Studio
Year of completion

«I recently received a phone call from Malta,» says Luca Peralta, an architect and landscape architect who works on sites all over the world. «The client wanted to know if I could come to the island, where a property called Villa Rihana had a garden that needed redesigning. The location was close to the sea but a long way from urban areas. When I arrived, I discovered that the location was truly splendid but realised it was not the garden but the villa itself that was in need of redesigning. A recently-built inward-looking local stone block construction, it was enclosed by high walls that prevented any visual contact with the surroundings. It consisted of a series of volumes grouped together without any compositional analysis, elevations lacking in value and devoid of architectural language, a fragmented distribution of interior and exterior spaces with limited functionality entirely unsuited to the new owner’s lifestyle. In short, there was no alternative but to completely rebuild it. I realised that the project needed a strong theme, and as I thought about it, two ideas came to mind. First, the architecture and landscape should be designed in such a way as to form a unified whole; second, the most important thing was not the view from the outside, but what could be seen from the villa itself, namely the sea, the horizon, the olive trees and the Mediterranean landscape.» The first step was therefore to demolish the boundary walls close to the building and to delimit the surrounding green areas with low dry stone walls typical of the Maltese tradition, thereby allowing the people who live in the house to enjoy splendid views of the sea and the landscape. The next step was to create a romantic garden planted with olive and carob trees and local shrubs typical of the Mediterranean scrub.
As for the architecture itself, «The concept behind the project was to redesign the building from a formal and functional perspective in two ways,» explains Peralta. «First, a new volume was added to the roof, encasing it in a high-performance envelope consisting of thermal break windows and glazing and a ventilated façade made of Pietra Santafiora slabs, a material that closely resembles stone from the nearby island of Gozo but has much greater resistance to the destructive effects of salinity. Next, as though to direct one’s gaze towards the beauty of the landscape, this new volume was sandwiched between two parallel horizontal planes.» Above, a kind of continuous pergola was created to interconnect all the volumes and provide new usable indoor and outdoor spaces. Consisting of a square canopy roof with overhangs of between 1.5 and 5 metres according to the profile of the building, it efficiently and discreetly integrates special systems, lights, audio speakers and video surveillance cameras into its thickness. This solution lends fresh compositional harmony to the whole and, like a new layer, is superimposed over the residential volume, creating something new without disrupting the existing structure. «I like to compare this structure to a woman’s eyebrows,» continues the architect. «They serve to protect the eyes from sunlight while having the aesthetic function of enhancing beauty!» At the same time, a raised deck has been created on the ground level and appears to float above the landscape. Chosen for their distinctive texture and outstanding resistance to the high salinity of the location, porcelain slabs from the Pietre Native Baugé Beige series by Casalgrande Padana were used in a 60×60 cm size and 2 cm thickness and installed by gluing to the screed. The same slabs are laid dry on gravel next to the garden, and mounted on plastic supports to serve as the ventilated cladding of the terrace and roof. A series of special ceramic pieces, again supplied by Casalgrande Padana, were also used to create some highly elegant details. «The collection’s aesthetic qualities exceeded all expectations in terms of the way it blended harmoniously with the other materials we used,» says Peralta. Moreover, it has contributed significantly to the success of the project and to its harmonious integration into a landscape of outstanding beauty.

Casalgrande Padana, Granitogres Pietre Native, Pietra Baugé + Kerblock
porcelain stoneware
60x60 cm
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): < 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 150 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): > 45N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10 A+B
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant
Certifications and awards
ISO 14001
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