Visit a brutalist house in Milan with links to Ettore Sottsass | Architectural Summary
While buzzing with architect Luca Cipelletti’s latest residential project in Milan, it’s impossible not to notice two other names on the door: Nathalie Du Pasquier and George Snowden. The designers (who happen to be husband and wife) were founding members of the radical design movement of the 1980s, the Memphis Group. And when Cipelletti first set foot in the windowless L-shaped attic of the Porta Nuova building, which he had been hired to make more livable, the door was labeled with the names of the movement’s founding father. , Ettore Sottsass, and co-founder Marco Zanini.
“They were early radicals,” Cipelletti says of the band, known for their irreverent use of wacky shapes and colors that challenged notions of good taste. As a teenager in Milan in the 80s, Cipelletti had seen many of their early shows and decades later would design a 2006 Sottsass exhibition in Tokyo as well as the 2021 reconstruction of a Sottsass interior, Casa Lana, in Triennale Museum, In Milan. “They didn’t always have to think about a function. This freedom has helped me a lot in a way.
But if you think this apartment is a blatant homage to radical Italian design, think again. Cipelletti is a different type of madman, he insists, “my madness is in obsessive compulsiveness, that’s more serious; it’s about removing things. He likes to use the word millimeter to describe his work. And indeed, this project is about as obsessed with detail as it gets. The table surfaces are cut at 45 degree angles to give them a paper-thin appearance. The marble is matched to the floors and walls to look like a large sheath. And a linear pattern, like the frets of a guitar, runs horizontally across the apartment from ceiling to walls, across bookshelves and across floors with almost painful precision.
The 400 square meter L-shaped volume had high sloping ceilings, but no natural light, so to make it more livable, Cipelletti made a series of incisions on the front, side and ceiling to create windows and skylights and added around 100 square meters of terrace (planted by landscape architect Derek Castiglioni) just beyond. Everything is balanced on asymmetrical plaster-coated pillars that repeat every 36 meters, for an effect that is, in Cipelletti’s words, “a bit neo-Gothic and brutalist”.
“We wanted to add a lavish layer,” to temper the brutalist elements, Cipelletti explains. The walls and floors were clad in Canaletto walnut. The master bath was wrapped in over 17,000 pounds of forest green marble and the powder room in Brazilian fossil marble. Around the house, Cipelletti has installed panels of his version of the Venetian Mirror, which gets its smoky reflective quality from layers of oxidation applied to the stainless steel. His client, an art collector, brought an impressive collection of photographs, but little else, leaving it to Cipelletti to curate a mix of top-notch art and furnishings that would complement the gravity of the architecture. and pictures. Cipelletti scoured galleries, auctions and stores for 20th century treasures like a Franco Albini rocking chair, Gio Ponti desk and dining chairs and a stunning candy pink vase by Carlo Scarpa. Some of the pieces nod to the house’s radical Italian roots, such as two totemic sculptures by Alessandro Mendini and, perhaps most obviously, a set of ten Vistosi vases in Sottsass glass, snatched up at auction.