Set in the hills that surround Lugano – more precisely in the Cadro district of Lugano – this detached villa revisits some archetypes of the Ticino School and applies them to a contemporary architectural building.
Responding specifically to today's desire for high standing, a variety of main themes can be identified in the design: the relationship with nature and the landscape; the permeability of internal and external spaces; the juxtaposition and overlapping of forms; the concise use of materials; the creation of sustainable architecture without compromising on quality.
Arranged on three levels, an elongated form exploits the topography of the site, embracing the surrounding mountains and their rich vegetation in a landscape that grabs the eye wherever these elements intersect. The design aims to soften the building's mass by staggering some of its elements according to the main spheres of domestic life: in the basement there is the garage, a spa and fitness area; the bedrooms are on the first floor; and on the second floor, there is a large living area with a swimming pool and a patio. In addition to acting as a filter between the inside and outside, the pool and patio area can, if required, be closed off on all sides using a sophisticated system of curtains, turning it into an extension of the living area. The form of the iron pergola is skilfully measured to juxtapose and dialogue with the majestic main forms without impinging on them, while the pool is carved into the stone as if to conceal its playful yet aesthetic functionality.
This building is a succession of isotropic, transparent and flexible environments that make the most of the light, which enters through large glazed panels that provide a direct relationship with the outside. The light is diffused, calibrated and modular, projecting the dimension of living beyond the solid confines of the domestic walls.
Particular attention has been paid to the fittings, which are sober, elegant and integrated with the architecture that holds them. They are design objects conceived with care and finesse, generating contrasts and ambiences within an indivisible whole.
Thanks to the strong stereometry, which is also expressed in the choice of materials and surfaces, this design responds positively to the question of whether it is possible to build sustainable architecture without aesthetic compromises. On the first floor, the living area is a light space that rests upon the ground-floor volume in all its rationality – a massive block of stone over 30 metres long that encloses the sleeping area like a precious treasure trove. The spectacular valley views and the stunning visuals require an in-depth reflection on the theme of openings, visual cones and the use of glass.
These reflections determine the choices of the window and door arrangements, whose apotheosis is a single 15-metre window on the first floor and a 32-metre window on the ground floor. The parapets, which are also in glass, allow you to enjoy the views from every angle, which is the real driving force of the entire complex and determines the principles of its creation.
The intelligent use of geometry and line, the dialectic between the various materials, define and coherently extend the figurative world of the building.
Its bulk has been reduced to a minimum in the design to maximise the essence of its material consistency. Three strong materials – stone, plaster and glass – are therefore used to highlight the building's plasticity. They are juxtaposed without the typical rhythmic cadences of a traditional façade, yet still integral to its substance.
The stone is an anthracite-toned quartzite with strong silver reflections, which gives the design an iridescent and changing colour, depending on the inclination of the sun's rays. The austere yet graceful surface of the first floor is also designed to be very light when bathed in the sun. Glass, the real star of this building, defines the façade and protects it thanks to technical characteristics that compete with the building's opaque materials.
The obscuration is entrusted to a complex intertwining of vertical roller blinds equipped with advanced home automation, connected to a weather station on the roof and regulated by the movement of the sun, and more generally by the weather conditions. The fabric, also anthracite, allows you to look out while concealing the inside.
The goal of this design is to construct a volume that contains everything necessary for living and finds its fulfilment in the sequence of the interior spaces, arranged in an orderly fashion on the three different levels of the villa.
On the first floor, the 150-square-metre living room is housed in a single cantilevered volumetric system extending towards the valley, almost becoming a springboard towards the extraordinary surrounding hills. On the ground floor, rooms, dressing areas and boudoirs, spaces with a privileged view of the garden – which also extends towards the valley – are designed to integrate with each other but at the same time provide functional and visual privacy. There is space in the basement for all the building's ancillary rooms: from the gym and private spa to the laundry room; from the wine cellar to the large garage.
Wood is the mood that generates the design of the interior and that, in contrast with the austerity of the external materials, warms all the environments. The parquet in three different sizes of rough-brushed grey oak boards; bookcases and wardrobes all in grey-lacquered wood; white and grey plastered walls: this chromatic choice for the interiors becomes the real canvas to be painted, the staging for all the furniture and fittings, which can therefore be colourful and also excessively extravagant.
Building without inventing, designing in the reinterpretation of archetypes that have always been the basis of architecture: that's the challenge that this majestic villa accepts and overcomes.
Michele Zago, born in 1978, graduated in architecture at IUAV in Venice where he met V. Gregotti, C. Aymonino, A. Ferlenga, F. Purini. During the academic years, under the supervision of Carlo Magnani, he collaborated with the university and started working as an architect, designing interesting buildings both private and public.
In Switzerland, since 2004, he developed his research into the concepts of housing and starts studying the theme of villas and collective residences, in these years he refined his architectural language by merging the principles of the Venetian school with the rigorous archetypes of the Switzerland’s ones.
Since 2014, the project activity has focused on the development of architecture for hotels, resorts, villas and residences, in Europe and the Middle East. The projects with the greatest international prominence include the hotel The View in Lugano, the Catrina Sky Resort SPA in Disentis and the Swiss Compound in Oman.