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Ca’Giovanni: An Architect’s (Gentle) Renovation of His Great-Grandfather’s Work

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Ca’Giovanni: An Architect’s (Gentle) Renovation of His Great-Grandfather’s Work

January 13, 2023

When we reached out to Italian architect Alfredo Vanotti of EV + A Lab about this snug stone house in the Italian countryside, we didn’t anticipate how deep the architect’s tether to the place would go.

“The building had been used in the past as a stable and warehouse on the ground floor and a barn and storage room on the first floor,” Alfredo responded. “It belonged to my great-grandfather who toiled to build it, worked on it all his life. It was the symbol of the livelihood of the entire large family. I could not erase the history; I had no right to do so. I had to be as respectful as possible. Starting from these principles, I decided that I would not modify either the volume or the openings while keeping, where possible, the existing materials.”

Now (gently) redone, the early-1900s stone dwelling is the architect’s main residence. “The building had one ‘life,’ and having been abandoned for several years, the goal was to give it a second one without forgetting the previous one,” he adds.

Take a look inside the architect’s respectful twenty-first-century re-imagining of his great-grandfather’s work.

Photography by Marcello Mariana, courtesy of EV + A Lab.

the house is nestled into a hill in the lombardy region of italy. &#8\2\20; 9
Above: The house is nestled into a hill in the Lombardy region of Italy. “I was a child when my great-grandfather worked there, so I attended it with the eyes and carefreeness of a child experiencing a place for fun,” Alfredo recalls. “Certainly unconsciously it has remained in my heart and mind.”

“The load-bearing structure composed of chestnut beams and joists was in excellent condition,” Alfredo writes, “so it was not touched and did not need consolidation.” The roof, however, was in need of careful repair. “I dismantled the rusty corrugated sheet metal roofing and removed the chestnut planking,” Alfredo adds. “I proceeded to clean the sheet metal and trim and clean the chestnut planks, which were then put entirely back in place, including the corrugations.”

the stone dwelling&#8\2\17;s main room. &#8\2\20;i started by cleaning  10
Above: The stone dwelling’s main room. “I started by cleaning the plaster on the first-floor walls, bringing to light the entire natural stone structure and defining the openings,” Alfredo writes.

“Once the interior volume was defined, I put in place the charred-wood window and door frames so that they had a color that was as close as possible to the colors of our historic houses—in which the soot generated by the fire of the wood-burning fireplaces used for heating ‘stained’ all the confined spaces black,” Alfredo explains. “The floor also had to reflect the characteristics of the past, so I thought of a simple sand and cement subfloor that I sanded and treated with an opaque product to make it waterproof and washable.”

the design &#8\2\20;refers to the past, but with a modern twist,&#8\2\2 11
Above: The design “refers to the past, but with a modern twist,” Alfredo says. “In the center of the living room/kitchen, I inserted, as is traditional, the wood-burning fireplace that also serves as a divider between the two rooms,” he writes. It also adds plenty of heat.
&#8\2\20;the fireplace and the kitchen are painted iron,&#8\2\2\1; alfr 12
Above: “The fireplace and the kitchen are painted iron,” Alfredo adds. “They’re custom-designed and painted black and brass respectively, colors and materials of our rural history.”
the original stone walls need no embellishment. 13
Above: The original stone walls need no embellishment.
furnishings, too, were kept dark. 14
Above: Furnishings, too, were kept dark.
the bedroom is just off of the living area and kitchen. 15
Above: The bedroom is just off of the living area and kitchen.
the bedroom is painted a deep russet, with long linen drapes to close off the f 16
Above: The bedroom is painted a deep russet, with long linen drapes to close off the floor-to-ceiling windows.
the bathroom is carved out in one corner of the &#8\2\20;sleeping quarters, 17
Above: The bathroom is carved out in one corner of the “sleeping quarters,” as Alfredo calls them. “The boundary of the bath was made with simple transparent glass, a glass cube that delimits the space but provides transparency and natural light,” he writes.
the black painted vanity. 18
Above: The black-painted vanity.
the view into the main room from the sleeping quarters, with the bath at left&# 19
Above: The view into the main room from the sleeping quarters, with the bath at left—complete with Alfredo’s pup.
lastly: &#8\2\20;on the ground floor, where the warehouse used to be, is my 20
Above: Lastly: “On the ground floor, where the warehouse used to be, is my architecture studio—a real laboratory of ideas,” Alfredo writes.

For more stone houses, might we suggest:

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