The small and ancient fishing hamlet of Marzamemi nestles on the Ionian coast along the south-eastern corner of Sicily. The name - turtledove bay - has Arabic origins, but 17th-century houses built by fisherman make up much of its dense, tangled urban fabric in which the old tuna fishery, the ports and some other gracious buildings hint at a more illustrious past. The town's history can also be ‘felt’ in the building restrictions, with a raft of regulations designed to safeguard the architecture and landscape. Casa EC's origins lie in the rather less remote 1950s, but despite this and its decentralised location, it still had to comply with numerous restrictions. The design strikes a delicate balance with the fragile surrounding urban fabric. It accepted the restrictions preventing changes to the volume and the materials and focused on the intimate connection with the landscape, making "meditation" a central concept reinforced by the expansive sea view from the rocks and breakwater on which the house is perched. At the same time, the house never pretends it is isolated from the famous Sicilian baroque that abounds in nearby cities like Noto.
This is an artist's house, meant for short stays, where the Mediterranean light and the reflection of the sky are defining architectural features. The sandstone block walls were protected and preserved from the corrosive effects of the salty sea air. White is the defining trait and ensures internal-external continuity. The floor on the terrace and in the interior is light-coloured stone slabs from nearby Modica, creating a play of reflection. Inside and outside the walls are unified by the use of light colour, but the finishings differ. The original external walls are rough to the touch, contrasting with the smooth surfaces found inside.
The interior layout was more radically overhauled. A central unit was created to house the kitchen and bathroom facilities. For the entrance, a new offset wall was built to visually and physically lead into the living space that opens onto the terrace and sea via two large French windows. The two bedrooms are located on opposite sides of the house, carving out a space for a small study. Everything inside is dominated by white and light colours. The walls and the roof beams merge in a wash of white, with the Modica stone adding nuances to the floors and the bases of the niches, whilst the wooden furniture (tables, chairs and a bench) is elegantly foregrounded. It is, as noted, an artist's house, with mosaic and ceramic inserts adding a touch of evident, yet delicate colour that, coupled with the choice of materials, signifies the meeting of the natural and the artificial. The entrance itself has a sense of ritual that reinforces the underlying idea of meditation, a central part in the overall design. The entrance symbolically connects the interior and exterior, aiding the transition to this welcoming space marked by lightness of colour. All the different materials are bright, full of light. For example, the outer side of the door is coated with a thin layer of enamelled lava stone, the wooden handle has an enticing material and colour contrast and the double decorations contain lines of tiny stylised fish. The inner side of the door is much simpler, with lacquered fir staves and a satin-finished steel handle. The floor at the entrance shines with a ceramic mosaic where fish - large red spots of colour - create an array of symbolic lines leading into the welcoming space of a house where the light of the blue sky is reflected indoors.
Location: Marzamemi, Siracusa
Gross Floor Area: 100 m2
Architects: Indice Creativo – Eva Grillo
Design Team: Odette rigano, Laura Santagati
Works Management: Indice Creativo – Eva Grillo
Structural: Antonio Di Benedetto
Photography: © Salvatore Gozzo
Indice Creativo combines architectural design with activities in the fields of design and the arts. It was established in 2008 by Eva Grillo, who completed her academic studies at Reggio Calabria’s Università degli Studi Mediterranea and Granada’s Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura. After graduating in 2004, she moved to Lisbon, where she put her consolidated her training. The studio draws upon the expertise of national and international professionals from a variety of fields in its work, which extends from the conception to the management of high-profile cultural events. Recent projects in the fields of architecture and contemporary art include managing ‘Intersections – International Workshop of Architecture and Urban Design’ in 2010 and 2011, and the interdisciplinary lecture series ‘Addomesticare l’intorno. Abitare il mondo’. It collaborates with Catania’s Fondazione dell’Ordine degli Architetti and the ABADIR, also in Catania. It’s Casa EC design was selected for publication in Quaderni della Giovane Architettura italiana (published by Consiglio Nazionale degli Architetti and MAXXI) as a part of the 2013 Premio Giovane talento dell’architettura italiana.