Curating history

Restoring the historical layers of a centuries-old house with modern design




The house has a complex history. Starting from the late 17th century, it grew upwards, gradually layered over the mediaeval chambers. In the second half of the 19th century, the mansion was extensively renovated, its floor area increased. In the 1930s, the mansion became a four-storey building. A fifth-floor mansard to be added to the house as part of the renovation. The mansion itself is an architectural and historical ‘layer cake’ so it would have been impossible to decide which of the many historic layers deserved to be the leading inspiration and set the tone for the reconstruction. The reconstruction project is to bring the house back to life, to develop it towards the present by the power of design. It is not intended as a museum exhibit, but rather as a vibrant modern building with a rich history. None of the design decisions in this project are remotely timid: there is a lot of decor, colour, materials, textures and patterns.

The renovated spaces within the building do not hark back to the 19th century, but underscores a continuation of history through design, which supports both the spirit of the house as well as the times. This is a unique project that is not typified through reference to a specific historical period. It fluidly combines what was with what could be.

There is no ‘value gradient’ in the new interior design – the same busy approach and natural materials are used in both the apartments and public spaces. All new interiors refer to the Italian craft logic of design in their chosen material, deft workmanship, painstaking attention to detail, chosen materials, and prescription of preparatory sketches to inform interior details.

Each apartment is palatial, boasting its own open fireplace and bespoke array of handicraft items including marble products, mirrors and lamps, as well as rooms adorned with undercut cornices and ceiling paintings, creating a vault-like illusion.

The project’s main materials are natural stones, marbles and complex plasters made using ancient technologies and natural pigments. The colour palette highlights the layering that defines the building’s history – pure and defined patches of colour are dismissed for the fragmentary remnants of hues, scattered here and there.

Murals, stucco and parquet are thoroughly restored, yet there is no historicism in the new elements – they do not depict history, but continue it. The authenticity of historical details echoes the authenticity of the modern elements.

The courtyard is situated around a historic building that has been reconstructed and turned into apartments. Located at different heights, the various entrances to the house are approached by the garden, whose very surface forms a landscape sculpture. From the arch of the main entrance, the entire courtyard rises in broad levels, like Italian Renaissance gardens, where green islands of bushes and trees are laid out across the steps. Meanwhile, the former carriage house in the courtyard has been transformed into a romantic grotto for solitary contemplation.