INTO THE BLUE
An iconic house in the Swiss hills has been reborn as 21st century residence for a family of four
the Italian word ‘roccia’ means ‘rock’ in English, and as you walk through the concrete rooms of this villa, its name feels fitting. Concrete walls open to concrete stairs that lead upwards from the entrance. To the left, a balcony that in other hands might open to a panoramic view of the lake, instead confronts a sheer, craggy cliff face of mossy rock and deep green creeping tendrils. The house has been built to commune with the surrounding nature; in places, the structure is inches away from the primal earth that juts up around it. “At first, the proximity of the rock might seem threatening,” explains Chiara Costacurta, the lady of the house. “In fact, it communicates positive energy and a sense of well-being.” The decision to devote large glass windows to the rock rather than to hide it behind walls is a strongly conceptual approach; a relationship with geography and topography is typical of the Ticino school of Architecture, of which Villa Roccia’s architect Mario Campi was an affiliate.
As Campi achieved fame, he was approached by the painter Felice Filippini in the late Sixties to create a light-filled space in which he might live and paint. This resulting north-oriented structure is a prime example of Campi’s vernacular – creating an inextricable discourse between his buildings and their contextual elements.
The house was later acquired by the Bulgarian musician Alexis Weissemberg, once described by Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajanas as ‘one of the greatest pianists of our time’. Unfortunately his architectural tastes were not in sync with the borderline Brutalist aesthetic of Villa Roccia, and many of the original interior elements were altered or covered up.
When they acquired the house a few years ago, Costacurta and her husband François Droulers sought to renovate with respect to the architect’s original intention. “We worked together with an extremely competent team: the heirs of the Campi studio,” explains Droulers. “They retained the original architectural drawings, so we were able to reverse and restore the alterations, and make sympathetic additions.” The house was originally built as a more modest home, but has now been expanded to add extra bedrooms and a pool. “For forty years, the house has been inhabited by two single people,” says Droulers. “Now there’s space for a family with four children.”
With a ceiling height of over sixteen feet, the first floor living room features green wood-panelled walls and a resin floor. This former artist’s studio is bathed in a bright, fresh light, and fixtures, fittings and furniture are mostly bespoke with select pieces by some of the most celebrated Italian designers of the era. “The interiors are all by Droulers Studio,” explains Costacurta. “Namely François’ sisters Nathalie and Virginie.” The large corner sofa, custom made by the sisters, wraps around the perimeter of two walls, and a Mies van der Rohe day beds sit next to a 1960s desk with vintage lamps. The concrete coffered ceilings that soar overhead are breathtaking in their industrially decorative geometry.
Past the kitchen and the dining area that sports a transparent Gallotti & Radice table with chairs designed by Jean Prouvé, more stairs lead up to the final floor where a master bedroom populated with vintage Italian furniture joins a master bathroom that looks across to a glass rooftop greenhouse. Both the rooms feature the distinctive coffered ceilings and concrete walls, but additions of dark Italian walnut panels in the bedroom and lighter pear wood in the bathroom add warmth. “With the interiors we’ve tried to maintain a strong sense of the materiality,” says Nathalie Droulers. “Instead of being struck by embellishments or decorative details, the sense you get is of nature.”
“The house was built for a single person. Now there’s space for a family with four children”
“The proximity of the rock might seem threatening, but it transmits positive energy”
“Instead of being struck by decorative details, you get a sense of nature”
LADY OF THE HOUSE CHIARA COSTACURTA LOOKS OUT FROM THE TERRACE TO LAKE LUGANOOPPOSITE: AN ARTWORK BY EMILIO VEDOVA IS FLANKED BY PAIR OF VINTAGE LAMPS IN THE SITTING ROOM
LEFT: FRANÇOIS DROULERS AND CHIARA COSTACURTA RECLINE ON A BARCELONA DAY BED BY MIES VAN DER ROHE FOR KNOLL. THE COLOURFUL SCULPTURE IS BY PINO URBANO
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: THE GLAZED NORTH FACADE OF THE VILLA LOOKS OUT TO A WATER BASIN; THE DININGTABLE BY GALLOTTI & RADICE IS PAIRED WITH JEANPROUVÉ CHAIRS. THE SUSPENSION LAMPS ARE FROM DCW EDITIONS; A VIEW FROM THE BATHROOM INTOTHE GREENHOUSE