This is architecture designed as a full participant in the suggestive Val di Noto landscape, an area of Sicily characterized by gently-sloping hills and the reflected luminosity of the nearby Mediterranean Sea. The home’s distinctive character is conveyed through a combination of elegant and refined design solutions, imbued with an intense capacity to offer a way of living that brings together an integrated conception of construction elements with elements of human inspiration.
This radical addition to the landscape was designed by Luana Rao and Andrea Morana. Their rationally simplifying architectural approach is a schematization of pure, “noble” geometries: a parallelepiped clearly visible in the landscape - thanks to its geometry and white-colored plastered walls - make it a specimen of architecture that asserts its own values, straddling the line between openness and closure, mediating transparency and luminosity through multifaceted insights built up by degrees of connection between the environment/rooms and the environment/open spaces. The whole edifice is set in the countryside in a deep and radical way, creating an osmosis between its eye-catching visuals and the home’s concentrated geometries.
The conclusive result is a rhythmical and empathetic form of architecture that becomes a way of living. The house offers an eloquent point of reference on the south-sloping plateau much as if the landscape was terraced, while at the same time providing meditative silence: the kind of silence that comes from an integration of the nature of things with meticulous, analytical observation. In counterpoint, it is a poetic expression that dovetails in inner ways with lived life, participating in both nature and architecture by establishing a degree of balance in the unfolding of time and things.
To reach the house is to enjoy the rational simplification-inspired approach of which it is an example. The idea is to slowly draw near to a built element, a pure white volume sitting lightly on a modest forecourt... A pause that settles into the bigger picture; one in which the frame is impossible to pin down, becoming an extension of the horizon’s nuances– in fact the true and actual frame of reference for the conceptual dimension that the architects have adopted.
The house features a blank wall to the north; an entrance to the east with a full-height opening protected by a micro-perforated sliding sheet of metal, expressing the founding values of external/internal integration through semi-transparency; to the west, a short strip of windows; and to the south – the main view – a wide opening towards the horizon and the infinity at which it hints. This larger full-height opening is regulated by sliding micro-perforated sheets of metal, enabling the two walls (to the south and east) to unleash a never-ending variability of combinations.
The internal spaces within the home’s parallelepiped are governed by multiple relationships. The social environment cluster is around the northern wall, offering a hearth and elegant integration into the kitchen, dining and living areas, characterized by a large, full-height glazed wall that connects with the open space inside the home. The bedrooms are arranged along the western side, distributed along a brief corridor/access space.
The internal open space, which may be compared to a squared-off central courtyard that extends beneath the roof slab towards the east and south, in correspondence with the openings characterized by their sliding metal frames, is the area where habitability-based relationships and visuals come together. The glazed wall in the living area relates laterally to the eastern access, initiating a relationship of almost central axiality with the south-facing opening up into the landscape: in turn, the openings may be adapted by their sliding frames to modify their relationships with the exterior. The result is an ever-increasing sum of the values of habitability, in a potentiality of elegance posited upon a connection between spaces that enhances moments of life experienced as programmatic multiplicity, cadenced by the changing light and an abstraction-led rapport between the countryside and architecture.
Location: Altopiano dei monti Iblei, Noto (SR)
Gross Floor Area: 157 m2
Architects: morana+rao architetti
Contractor: Angelico Costruzioni
Structurals: Antonio Di Benedetto
Technical Systems: S.A.M.E., MV Impianti
Doors and Windows: Domal
Photography: © Francesco Caristia
Andrea Morana and Luana Rao graduated from the Siracusa Faculty of Architecture in 2009. Their joint thesis, supervised by Bruno Messina, discussed the restoration of the former Abela barracks. It received honors and was recommended for publication.
During their training, they attended international workshops in Portugal, Argentina, and Italy. They also contributed to architectural competitions, receiving various awards.
In 2007, they won third prize in the Mondello international urban redevelopment award for students. A year later, still as students, they designed Casa M, which earned first prize in Los Angeles’ International Design Awards, housing category.
In 2010, they set up their practice, morana+rao architetti, in Siracusa.
In 2012, they received an honorable mention in the Young Italian Architects category of the Selinunte National Award, organized by the AIAC.
Two years later, they won first prize in the regional In/Arch-Ance Sicilia competition, Under 40s category, with Casa O. Also in 2014, they received an honorable mention in the Giovane Talento dell’Architettura Italiana award, organized by the CNAPPC, for their project for the redevelopment of Largo Porta Reale in Noto.
In 2015, they won first prize in the Italian National Pool Award. During the same year, they earned an honorable mention in the international Premio Gubbio, organized by the ANCSA, for their Largo Porta Reale project, while their Cappella F design received a special mention in the New Constructions category of the Quadranti d’Architettura award.
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