This house lies to the north of Ragusa, in a landscape marked by rural remnants, including drystone walls and old farming plots. It is against such a backdrop that this structure experiments with architectural forms to find a conceptually refined, balanced and measured approach. The solutions adopted are evidence of how much thought and study went into the methodology and into ensuring creative pragmatism. The design unfolds with a thought-through weave of observations based on a careful analysis of the site, producing an effective coupling of "being rooted to the place" and "defining innovation".
In more practical terms, the project was about extending the house without foregoing elegance. The plot was originally developed in the 19th century, although the main building and annexed courtyard are not part of this project. Instead, the focus was on another old building that was once used as stables and storage space. The plan included both completely overhauling an existing building to turn it into a house and, next to this, adding a new section on the space where a farm building once stood. The area around this - now double the original size - adds additional elements to the design. First, the outdoor areas were turned into a proper garden, including the construction of a long, narrow swimming pool. Adding this 'watery element' helps emphasise the building's geometry, while also adding visually to the entrance pathway. Secondly, two outbuildings where built with the floor level slightly raised above the level of the land. The one - a steel and glass structure - is a manual workshop for creative output, while the other is a solid-looking garage.
The design elegantly explores the architectural landscape, but always with a sense of an underlying unity of conception. For example, the old rural walls - both those marking the landscape and forming the original building - become a source of creative invention filled with connections, allusions, hints and contrasts. The stones themselves - signs of linearity and volumetric fullness - become not only boundaries and walls, but also aspects that create emphasis. The new walls are made with these stones and contemporary materials, giving them the same values and perspectives as the old ones. They become backdrops, connecting lines, interruptions and distinctions between buildings.
Creating a single house across the old and new sections required an inter-related procedure in which the refurbishment of the old structure was matched by the shapes and volumes of the addition. Each building has a pitched roof (with exposed wooden beams in the old building and a concrete and masonry frame in the new one). The main façade looks like a double façade, with the windows and doors differentiating the two. Indoors, the new design locates a living room in the existing structure on the ground floor, facing onto the entrance courtyard. The use of a double height space adds a vertical dimension leading up to a study. In the other building, the kitchen and dining area are on the lower floor, while the upper floor has bedrooms and bathrooms.
The indoor space is characterised by the combination of a longitudinal sense created by the buildings themselves and a transversal/vertical dimension formed through the design. An elegant, light, suspended iron staircase with a limestone base and lava stone steps dominates the living space beneath a large arch. The stairs lead up to a solid landing that looks onto the double-height space and provides access, through a doorway, into the bedroom area. Both the inner spaces and the external ones - with new structures, open surfaces, walls, open areas and equipment - have a wonderfully integrated sense of dynamism that comes from the views, paths and choices of materials. Together, these aspects reveal the profound nature of the rationale underlying the design: a clear connection to the place combined with an expressive, yet measured contemporary rationality.
Architects: Francesco Nicita
Design Team: C. Tribastone, G. Gatto, A. Nicita
Contractor: Impresa edile Mezzasalma Pietro
Structural: A. Iacono
Electrical Systems, Home Automation: F. Minardi
Imp. termici ed idrici: L. Accetta
Wood Flooring: Antico E'
Furnitures: B&B, Carl Hansen, Cappellini, Kartell
Bathroom Fixtures: Flaminia
Faucets: Cea Design
Photography: © Santo Edoardo Di Miceli
Nicita was born in Dubrovnik in 1970. In 1997, he graduated in architecture at the University of Palermo with his thesis on Zen and the public housing experience in Italy since the sixties. In the same year, he received professional accreditation and became a member of the Ragusa Association of Architects.
While still at university, he worked with architects Alvaro Siza Viera, Roberto Collovà, and Teresa La Rocca on a number of projects in Sicily (Salemi, Gibellina, and Palermo) and was a tutor on the staff of the Palermo Faculty of Architecture.
Since 1997, he has participated in numerous seminars, workshops, and architecture and urban planning competitions in Italy and abroad, including Trapani, Prato, Turin, Lisbon, and Geneva.
Until 1997 he worked with Roberto Collovà’s practice and, from 1997 and 1998, with Marco Navarra’s NOWA studio.
In 1998, he set up his own firm in Ragusa, principally focusing on projects involving existing buildings and interior architecture. He established UPA – Ufficio per l'Architettura with the aim of expanding the relationship between architecture, photography, and the visual arts through organizing exhibitions, events, meetings, and small publications.
In 1998, he won first prize in the Europan 5 competition, involving new residential landscapes, transport, and local facilities in the Antico Corsa area of Catania. In 1999, he received an honourable mention in the competition for the replanning of the spaces surrounding the city’s town hall and church of S. Bartolomeo, and the redevelopment of infrastructure adjoining Piazza Umberto and Piazza del Popolo a Floridia. In 2000, he was refunded all expenses in the ideas competition Roccanormanna for the redevelopment of the historic hill of Paternò. In 2006, he earned an honourable mention in the ideas competition for the transformation of the area around the Modica post office building as well as the building’s redevelopment. In 2012, he received a mention in the Architettura Oggi award and a special mention in the InArch/Ance Sicilia prize.
From 2004 to 2012, he worked with Roberto Collovà on the completion of the winning submission in the international competition for the redevelopment of the historic centre of the city of Gela.