The area around Catania on the Italian island of Sicily is a magnificent and slightly undulating landscape characterised by orchards. When architect Ada Mangano approached extending a villa in this area, it became a design with multiple meanings. At the very heart of this idea lies the concept of 'adding something' to an existing structure, which in this case was a building with a large, almost invasive pitched roof stretching in numerous directions. Of course, an extension has to consider the relationship that will be formed between the original structure and the new ones.
The addition consisted of an outdoor pool with a small covered section, the related facilities and utilities rooms and a series of eloquent annexed spaces that, built on the concept of "open-air rooms", form part the volume of the extension. The architecture here expresses a notion of living, pushing the existing villa into the background. The addition both physically and conceptually stands in front of the old house.
The added structures also become an extension of the design goals as the functional elements - i.e. the actual extension - are used to reorganise the use of open space and the garden. The olive trees dotted around, the paths needing to be sorted out and even the lie of the land are all features that, along with the more distant landscape elements and the nature of the light, are reassessed and open up new design possibilities. It is through this dynamic tension between architecture and landscape that the organisation of the design emerges. This order creates space to introduce abstract elements with new meanings, yet at the same time the suggestions from the landscape and morphology are also picked up. For example, the volumes and lines are arranged along a horizontal line that is the key reference element. Walls become the curtains and backdrop for a secluded theatrical setting developed through the use of materials and shapes. This fertile idea of the theatre and abstract classicism is made clearer through the use of pathways with steps that trace how the ground has been landscaped to create outdoor areas.
This dynamic duality between looking out on the landscape and being part of it, even when in the buildings, is another key aspect to understanding this project. The design itself moves in multiple directions, such as towards abstraction through the use of materials for the walls, towards refined shapes in the connecting areas (the area next to the upper containment wall is an outdoor area for BBQs, external showers and the steps between two wings of the extension), and towards the relationship between the built elements.
Comparison helps to further understand the design. Spaces are given objective, geometrical shapes, but all this is pervaded by a subtle, almost imperceptible yearning to ensure the structures are connected to the landscape as a whole and to the sense of poetry generated through the multiplicity of relations.
The physical core is the series of buildings that house the various 'wellbeing' facilities (covered section of the pool, spa bath, change rooms), standing on a horizontal section between slopes. The use of contrast and cohesion to produce elegance is once again found here. Two cube-like buildings separated by steps rise up, creating an architectural opposition and parallelism. The volume to the left of the steps houses the BBQ and is open air, quite compact and solid because of the use of walls. The colour palette is light and the structure is marked by a horizontal gap that doesn't fully reveal the function of this 'room'. The other volume, the covered section of the pool, has a lighter, less material appearance with glazing on two sides. It does have solid elements as well: the dark frame around the front and the light blue load-bearing column. Inside, the determination to internalise the landscape comes through again, with the using of glazing producing an almost tactile sensation. The interior is defined by the harmony of the stairs, the metal handrail, the mosaics on the floor, and the opaque wall sections. This brings the focus back to the creative intersection between architecture and landscape, to ordering things and nature.
Location: Scordia, Catania
Gross Floor Area: 513 m2
Architects: Ada Mangano
Works Management: Domenico Zagami
Contractor: Luigi Amato
Structural: Biagio Lombardo
Thermal Systems: Salvatore Gregalli - Studio Termotecnica Delta
Electrical System: Carmelo Seminara Impianto
Pool: Mario Utili - Culligan
Safety Systems: Gianluca Chisari - Su.Dea
Green: Dario Ginoprelli - Vivai Etna
Lighting: Mario Lombardo - Strano Luci
Pool: Culligan Stone
Flooring: Giannone Rosario & C
Internal Cladding: Bisazza - Andò Ceramiche
Lighting: Martini, Ares, Guzzini - Strano Luci
Outdoor Furnitures: Gandiablaco - Silluzio
Green: Vivai Etna
Window and Door Frames: Schüco - Sicilcima
Photography: © Ada Mangano
Ada N. Mangano
Architect Ada Mangano (1973) graduated in architecture from the University of Reggio Calabria in 2002 and in 2008 completed her PhD in architectural design and urban analysis at the University of Catania. At the same university, she taught architectural composition I and II, and was part of the teaching staff for design workshops I and IV. Her practice is based in Sicily.
In 2008, her design Casa De Luca won the G.B. Vaccarini prize for the development of contemporary architecture in Sicily, ‘Quadranti d’Architettura’, in the First Work category. In 2012, the same design won an honorable mention in the Premio Nazionale Selinunte, in the Sicilian Architects under 40 category, at the second international ‘Architects Meet in Selinunte_Partire Tornare Restare’ conference, organized by the Associazione Italiana di Architettura e Critica and presS/Tfactory. The following year, her design Spazi Esterni di una Villa a Scordia won the Premio Nazionale Selinunte, in the New Sicilian Architectural Practice category.