Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Country House, Parma, Italy
Architect: Andrea Pacciani Architect, Parma, Italy; Andrea Pacciani, principal



Restoration & Renovation

Winner: Andrea Pacciani Architect

Maximum Splendor

By Martha McDonald

When Andrea Pacciani first saw the house, it was a shambles. It had been abandoned for many years and the roof and floor had collapsed, leaving only walls standing. There was not much left, but it was enough. Drawing on historical precedents found in nearby country homes and in Palladian villas, Pacciani, principal of Parma, Italy-based Andrea Pacciani Architect, was able to re-create a traditional Italian home that also offers contemporary conveniences.

Located on a one-acre site outside of Parma, in northern Italy, the original house was probably built in 1850 and is typical of country homes built at that time. The $700,000 reconstruction of the house was completed in 2007 after approximately two years of design and construction.

Pacciani has been working in the Classical tradition for more than 15 years. "On the simple reflection that one can live better in the houses of a past time than in today's modern ones," he says, "I have chosen to build in a traditional style, with modern conveniences as a second priority. I prefer the values of permanence, of things that last and that know how to grow old and that will be transmitted to future generations."

Although Pacciani has built and restored many homes and buildings, the condition of the country house near Parma posed quite a challenge. "The house was nearly collapsed," he says. "The challenge was to rebuild it to re-create the past and adapt it to the needs of contemporary life. The aim of the project was to create a building from the ashes of the old abandoned house. We sought the maximum splendor that this house could support following its original character, and respecting the structural characteristics, typology and distribution of spaces that belonged to the history of this building. The result is that it looks like an old farmhouse that had never been abandoned, but continued to have people living it and adapting to the times. It is a simple building, a little house, set on an angle to the street. It was built in the Italian style of this region."

Another challenge was converting what had been a country house into an urban home. "Now the house is very close to town," says Pacciani. "The people who live there have a city life, but they live in a country building. I had to mix the informal aspects of a typical country house with the formal elegance of a town house. I believe we have found a good balance. For example, we used the rough wooden structure typical of country houses together with moldings typical of city building. And, the main staircase is marble while the upper one is wood. We searched for the elegance of a city building but we kept the informal taste and materials of a country house where we could."

Pacciani kept the original footprint of the house and rebuilt the exterior using traditional materials as much as possible. The exterior walls are brick covered with stucco. Many of the exterior details on the façade, such as the decorative frieze under the eave of the roof and the balconies, were re-created using Vicenza stone – "the same stone used by Palladio in his villas," says Pacciani. Precast concrete was used for other details such as the base cornice, the window cornices and the entrance columns. A traditional tile roof tops the building and there are chimneys at each end of the home. Pacciani points out that the finials on the two entry columns at the front gate "were a mistake that was made when they started making columns in concrete in this region and we decided to keep this original mistake."

The rectangular building is approximately 1,200 sq.ft. per floor and includes three floors plus a basement. Each floor was re-created using similar three-part proportions, following Palladian guidelines. On the ground floor, for example, the center portion (approximately 18x18 ft.) includes a large dining room, entry hall and a small bathroom. It is flanked by a 16x18-ft. living room on one side and a 16x18-ft. space that includes a kitchen and elevator on the other. Marble stairs in the central dining room lead up to the second floor and a doorway leads outdoors to a loggia. Keeping the symmetry of the building, this rear exit is exactly in the center of the house and is opposite the main entry door on the front of the building.

On the second floor, the proportions are the same. The central area is a media room that is flanked by two 16x18-ft. bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. There are two balconies on this floor, a small one on the front and a larger one on the back of the house, over the loggia. The top floor features a recreation room in the center flanked by a bedroom and bathroom on one side and a maid's room with a bathroom and a small kitchen on the other.

The basement includes a spa in the center room and a laundry room on one side and a mechanical room on the other. Here Pacciani was able to use original bricks for the vaulted ceilings. Large exposed ceiling beams are used throughout. "We found some of the original beams in the grounds around the house and we were able to use them," says Pacciani. "We had others made to match them."

All of the craftsmen and workers came from nearby towns in Italy and the materials used in the reconstruction were also from Italian suppliers. The masonry work, for example, was done by Eurogrande Costruzioni of Brescello and carpentry was by Cisa Legno of Quattro Castella. Bussi Iron Works of S. Michele Tiorre re-created the ironwork for the home, including the balcony railings and the entry gate on the exterior and the stair railings for the interior. Moldings were fabricated by Cement Art of Colorno; the Palladian stone was supplied by Grassi Pietre of Nanto; and the Ceramic tile was supplied by Cavatorta of Parma.

Architect Paolo Antolini and engineers Simone Tamboroni and Enrica Triani collaborated with Pacciani on the project.

"This is a small house built in the Italian style of this region," says Pacciani. "Many of these historic homes are restored in a Modernist manner. I believe that traditional architecture, such as you find in here, is the future of our work, the real avant-garde direction of architecture."  



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