During a recent stay on the island of Ischia, Naples, Italy.
My dear friend Concetta told me about an incredible modernist house near the village of Forio, in the north west part of the island. I didn’t know of any “famous” architect designed house here on this small island, unlike a past adventure to Villa Malaparte on the near by island of Capri. Another story for anther time perhaps!
It was a mild January afternoon, Saturday. My motorino carried me along the narrow roads high above the coastline. The sun was setting and the shadows were getting longer. The road became narrow, dog walkers kindly stepped aside for me, then high above the cliff side soared this amazing structure. This was Villa Guilia. The house is completely private, the principle elevation for the public is this incredible understructure of concrete forming the outdoor terrace spaces. It reminded me of projects by Sir Denys Lasdun and a resemblance of Falling water by Frank Lloyd Wright. There is an honest, brutal and simple expression of form and function that exposed concrete offers its designer. It is a retrial that embraces ambition. The spectacular cantilevers of the cross beams are a wonder. I could see the subtle detailing of the formwork to reduce the mass and scale of beams and edges. In places like Ischia and the southern Mediterranean, rainwater provision is basic, almost castle like, gargoyles. Holes in the terrace floor are the water outlets. It made me think what a spectacle it must be to see waterfalls streaming out of this structure when there is heavy rainfalls.
The impact of the vast surface and structure above your head is fantastic, the junction of the central column and the sloped stone wall appeared random and in my opinion could have been more considered. But this is what it is and it only my opinion. Like most projects, unless you are involved in its creation you don’t know the decision process, the budgets, and the nature of relationships between all parties.
I talked with a local who passed me as I took photographs, she told me that the house is not occupied and that the property didn’t comply with the Italian building standards. On closer inspection I find the enforcement noticed served on the owner of Villa Guilia.
I left feeling like I had judged a book by its cover. In my opinion, we need to move through and around a building. For example, is the view of the sea blocked by the height of the terrace wall? Or is the circulation complicated and badly planned? Does the hill behind it keep it in shade for long periods of time?
It is these little moments of discovery that keeps my enthusiasm and wonder of design and architecture alive and curious. Its an idea, then it becomes a form and then it tries to serve its owner or user to the best of its creation and program. Seems simple, but if this idea, once realised, can move you emotionally as well as functionally then its an experience that will stay with you a little longer.