The renovation project of Casa CSR, an apartment in a 19th century patrician mansion in the old town of Ragusa in Sicily, required a thorough initial survey of the ownership structure. Since the property had changed hands and been fragmented over the years, it was necessary to determine the exact extent of the client’s asset in terms of the brick elevations, vaulted ceilings and iron floor slabs - made with a mix of inert materials like stone and plaster - and decorative features. The upshot was an intricate dwelling “unit” that extended over all four floors, with environments on the ground floor, one room on the mezzanine, and further environments on first “patrician” floor and attic. There was also an impractical circulation system unsuitable for contemporary spatial allocation and living requirements.
The spatial reorganization programme was posited on a “catalogue” of decorative and architectural elements to be preserved and restored. These included the timber window- and doorframes, the traditional many-coloured ceramic floor tiles - which were removed and re-laid to highlight the new juxtaposition of old and modern - and the traditional 19th century system of aligned or “enfilade” environments.
The new distribution over the four levels is rational and elegant. Not only functional, it enhances the new living spaces. The key renovation feature is the multi-ramp internal staircase linking the mezzanine room with the first and attic floors. This lightweight structure in galvanized steel with perforated sheet-steel steps is located in the long corridor on the first floor that was turned into a full-height 14-metre volume stretching from the mezzanine to the top floor. A pivotal element of the renovation programme, the new distribution system is eminently functional to the new spatial layout that makes full use of all available space and also includes secluded guest rooms. Made-to-measure furniture and fittings are key to the new spatial efficiency. The sleek, semi-transparent quality of the new staircase fits perfectly with the new light-filled environments achieved by another architectural feature of the programme: an iron-framed roof skylight in the centre of the house.