Noto || Italy
This holiday home lies in the countryside near Noto, in Sicily. The villa could be labelled a statement of intent. It seeks an intensive interpretation of landscape composition and explores the idea of how architecture draws from and exists in the landscape, a stratified memory of time that is almost a living recollection of the Mediterranean and the island. Sicily is, after all, at the crossroads of multiple influences. The construction becomes an expression of culture and civilisation through history. The rural buildings seem to resonate conceptually with the landscape, with the terrain - at times directly - marked by path pathways and dry walls. The horizontal nature of the volumes becomes a seamless addition to this sequence, unified despite their separation and diluted against the landscape.
The volumetric progression is practically "spontaneous", standing out for the light, bright coating that is a reminder of the proximity of the sea.
The house consists of three blocks connected to each other, with slightly slanting walls. Two of the volumes are actually linked, while the third is adjacent, separated by a narrow pergola-covered passageway that forms an east-west axis. Irregular and rounded lines create an organic feel, with different volumes that translate into subtly different heights for the roof lines. Both blocks have functional roof terraces that extend the structures physically and virtually, reaching out to the horizon, filled with light, wind and distant features caught between the sky and light, another sea allusion.
Both these terraces are accessible via an external staircase that runs along the outside wall, a feature reminiscent of traditional Mediterranean houses in seafaring villages. The blocks are aligned along a south-north axis. The sizeable southern block - the one with two communicating volumes - has three bedrooms, with bathrooms, one after the other. It connects to the rest of the open, seamless space via a few steps and then merges into the kitchen and living area to form a central element for the entire villa. The northern section is used as a guest house, with a self-catering space, a living-room and a bedroom.
The villa is formed through the merging of different aspects, in a process of formal and compositional development.
The blocks are, in essence, closed in nature on the western side, with very few windows, but then move to openness on the other, with large sliding doors connecting the interior and exterior social spaces. The compact, dense walls on the one side have touches of a fortress design, reiterated by the slight incline of the walls. On the eastern side, the outdoor space under the large pergola is covered with reed mats, supported by a thin metal frame that is notable for the different shapes of the structure. This space is the very core of life in the house, a space that is closely connected, almost intertwined, with the indoor living areas, expanding them in a reflection that blends elegant tradition and contemporary trends.
Location: Siracusa Province, Italy
Gross Floor Area: 250 m2
Architects: Mario Cutuli
Design Team: Gianluca Benanti, Marco Bordone, Francesco Minniti
Contractor: BG Costruzioni di Bordieri Giuseppe
Structural: Guido Papa
Landscape: Annibale Sicurella
Iron Elements: Automax
Wooden Elements: Midolo legno
Photography: © Alberto Novelli, Philip Leighton
Mario Cutuli opened his Rome studio in 2000. Besides his firm’s activities, he conducts research into environmental and social sustainability, with a focus on urban planning, mobility planning, and transport. The projects handled by his firm range from urban planning to landscape architecture, residential architecture, and the redevelopment of heritage buildings and brownfield sites. Since 1999 Cutuli has been involved in architecture, urban planning, and mobility planning in Rome as a consultant to public transport operators. Between 2001 and 2007, he contributed to the development of urban and land use policy as a staff member of the Office of the Mayor of Rome. From 2007 to 2008, he worked with the Fuksas studio as artistic director for the Nuovo Centro Congressi at the EUR in Rome. Then from 2007 through to 2012, he chaired the non-profit Maria Grazia Cutuli Foundation. As a part of the foundation’s activities, he collaborated with architectural firms Ian+, Ma0, and 2A+P, in a project to build a new school in Afghanistan, personally overseeing its construction in Herat. This design was featured in numerous Italian and international publications, including architectural journals Abitare, Abitare Cina, The Architectural Review, AV Monografias, Boundaries, Costruire in laterizio, L’industria delle costruzioni, Edilizia e Territorio, Landscape Design, and TEGL.