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Appartamento privato a Milano

Luca Cipelletti and David Tremlett in conversation – il Fondaco, Portofino Niasca

photo by Henrik Blomqvist

The Fondaco in Portofino is a building without specific architectural quality that is inserted into an exceptional context. Sited on the outskirts of the built part of the village, it sits astride the main road to the Natural Park in the hills above . In recent years, new interventions in the urban fabric of the village reiterated the theme of the “Ligurian façade”. resulting in trivial solutions of little real significance, insofar as this strategy did nothing to promote a harmony of architecture and context and has nothing to do with a genuine cultural reinterpretation of local building practice. This approach , mostly a summary of simple window frames, adopted a decorative language commonly used in the historical past of the region as an artistic strategy based on a form of interpretation that ended up impoverishing the tradition it sought to preserve.

The redevelopment and preservation of the Fondaco is part of  Niasca Portofino initiative, a company founded by residents and regulars who share a passion for the town. Its objective is to recover what is living in the local tradition by reversing the process of abandonment of arable land that in some areas has been uninhabited for a considerable time.

The Fondaco revitalized this part of the town. It makes it into a hub of activity for Niasca and hence also a quintessentially public space: to this end the architect took great care in the design and execution of offices, the ”frantoio” (oil press), a research laboratory, and a lecture hall. Yet, by means of this programmatic renewal, the goal was also to generate a new center. This involved a transformation of the site into a highly recognizable place appealing to a new public and serving as a tourist attraction showcasing the natural beauty and local produce of the Park.

(Filippo Romeo, LIVING 6 june 2014- Corriere della Sera)

With these motives in mind, the architect and museographer Luca Cipelletti invited the English artist David Tremlett to collaborate with him. To this end they undertook an in-depth inquiry into local architectural typologies and traditional facades.

Focussing his inquiry on color, pattern and material, Tremlett’s pictorial intervention radically reinterpreted regional forms, communicating with the context and its historical layers of experience and craft. As such it recuperated chromatically recognizable characteristics by rewriting them anew in a way that highlighted a play of formal motifs and traces of strartling contemporaneity. His contribution ended up stimulating a new type of thinking about about decoration that spoke to the theme of the Ligurian Façade in a compelling and up-to-date fashion.

The color scheme follows the Sikkens palette designed specifically for Portofino: in accordance with this scheme, the string course of the building, in gray, orders the two main floors by means of specific chromatic combinations: red on the ground floor (ca’ de San Sebastian) and a yellow on the first floor (ca’ du frantoio). Tremlett’s approach  mobilized a series of dynamic frames, opening up the scheme to a set of highly graphic geometries. These  followed the situation of the actual building as it moved up the hill as well as the formal logic of the context to create a kind of “magnetic” effect of interlocking elements. In the end what the project proposes is an invitation to continue on the path that takes the visitor to the initiatives and events of the Park.

The same philosophy that animated the mural is evident in the conversation between Tremlett and Cipelletti, which also inspired the renovation of the interior. In this way the exterior and interior enter into a new reading that is reciprocally based upon the idea of a visual and material continuum.

The materials deployed were chosen in accordance with local tradition: Bedonia stone, left in its rough natural state with minimal artifice and used traditionally as paving; olive wood for the doors, furniture and a large main table seven meters long. The choice of rough plaster and interior colors echoes the material and formal strategy of the exterior facades. In the end the project reads as a totality in which the trapezoidal geometries of the facades set up resonances with a whole set of details visible in the door handles and the furniture, the decoration of the dishes, and the internal lighting designed in collaboration with Studio Pasetti.

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(writer: JJ Martin, photography:Danilo Scarpati, Wallpaper*- july 2014)