Villa Rosa_Sketch House, at Formello, a small town north of Rome among rolling hills and extensive olive gloves, combines experimentation, technical and constructive know-how and creative flare.
Villa Rosa is a rehearsal of the theme of separation in architecture. On the one hand, the villa is an autonomous, gated, and protected system; like its reference points, Pliny’s villas—the Laurentinum and the Villa in Tuscis—it expresses the country house’s ideal of proud isolation. It was conceived as a residential and productive microcosm, where a family can enjoy a privileged relationship with the landscape and focus on manual labor and hobbies. On the other hand, the villa confronts the theme of separation through fragmentation, or the dismemberment of the house into various bodies, which include: the residential core; the entryway and accompanying space for sorting waste and recycling; the pool; the open-air kitchen; and the shed.
Villa Rosa is a pavilion house: an architectural complex made up of a series of environments located at different altitudes, inspired by the blueprint for Villa Adriana. The main pavilion, the residential one, is in turn divided into three different areas: the living area, including a raised studio, with a glass wall toward the southwest and complete with a kitchen and a solar greenhouse; the bedroom, which stretches across two levels; and a “filter space” that links the two and contains the entryway and horizontal and vertical connecting areas. The three different areas that make up the house—which are defined by separate roofs, but are connected by stairs inside and outside, and face out across vast terraced surfaces—are supported by a large foundation, which is partially underground. The house’s supporting structure is made of concrete, and it is covered in white plaster and aluminum siding.
Villa Rosa tries out a number of neo-Mannerist devices that capture the landscape, in order to frame different sections of the surrounding countryside, which features rolling hills and numerous olive groves. The southern terrace in particular is a kind of telescope: a formally autonomous entity that is structurally connected to the living area, like a man leaning forward into the darkness, holding on with just one hand. The terrace is a typologically and formally ambiguous element: it is a portico, a veranda, and a portal, all at the same time. Furthermore, it duplicates the overhang present in the bedroom area, becoming its double.
The exterior surfaces contribute to the multi-faceted interior layout, creating a series of unexpected spaces, stair cupboards and areas allowing the ingress of natural light. The spatial distribution is slightly skewed in plan by a series of subtle changes to the alignment of the single elements making up the whole. The result is to give an extremely simple layout a number of unexpected features, and the creation of an architecture that is both rational and spontaneous, explicit yet secretive.
Malfona Petrini Architetti is an office based in Rome. Since 2007 they built an archipelago of case study homes in the countryside north of Rome, which was awarded, exhibited and presented in many schools of architecture in Italy and abroad and published on architectural journals. Bringing the long-neglected idea of the single-family home back into play within Italian architectural culture, this work has been recently published as the core of the book "Building the Landscape. Residential Pavilions in the Roman Countryside" (Lettera Ventidue, 2018). In this latest publication, Lina Malfona reflects on the role of authorship in contemporary design, offering new perspectives on constructing the Italian landscape. She has been critic and lecturer at Cornell AAP, Columbia GSAPP, ENSA Paris Belleville, Harvard GSD, Sapienza Rome and University of Pisa among others. In 2015, she got the “Premio Giovani” National Award from the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome for her built work.