A house that challenges human intellect, the Gianicolo Residence in Rome by Architect Nicola Auciello sports and interface of spaces at various levels. Each new level is a discovery that leads to a remodelled lifestyle.

Text by Kanishka Ramchandani

da Home Review, may 2010.

“I believe that the embryonic stage of a project is something so intimate that a designer can often fond it difficult to share, more so than during the ‘operational’stage”, observes roman architect Nicola Auciello. Althhough this observation is applicable to most creative things, in this particular instance the architect is referring to Gianicolo Residence in Rome. A designing masterpiece by any yardstick, this project clearly depicts the train of emotional connect of the occopantsand the place and its environment and finally of the designer and all the said elements.
Another aspect of the design which immediately hits a discerning eye is the fluidity of design…the entire design concept revolves around merging spacec, spacious transitional interventions and visual connections. Fluidity, layered meanings and multiple functions of the design are all akin to poetry much to the architect’s satisfaction as he had drawn from the “poetic statements of Gio Ponti, which became essential elements of reading this roman residence”.
The owners of the house wished a “timeless” space to dwell in , something that was above trends and could provide an emotional stability by being “forever home”. Auciello’s expertise was fully realised in translating these intangible ideas into concrete structures. “It is a house intended for a couple with children and considerable interest in art as well as rather convivial way of life” says the architect.
The interior spread of the house is over 250 square metres and the outdoors is about 80 square metres. Every aspect of the house, from the floor to the windows, has a purpose and most importantly an identity. Every facet, down to the smallest detail, stands out with its exclusivity and yet falls in rhythm with the rest of the elements. Certain important aspect of the design are the flooring, windows, vaulted roof and stairway. Each of these is unique yet integral part of the overall design.
As Auciello says, “ The design of the flooring, with differentiated staves, scans the empty and full building, volumes and becomes the main theme of the project. Walking on it is an adventure…and not just of pedestrian kind”.
The house is divited at various levels, with six levels imposed by the existing structure and seventh one (a large loft) added during the design phase.
Spaces at various levels interact with each other thereby adding a sense of “overspill” to the entire design.
The entire project involved merging four apartments at various levels together along with two additional rooms. The entrance to the house is a ground level with a step up level leading to the living room and a step down level leading to the basement.
Auciello explains “ Approximately one third of the large apartment (approx 250 square metres) was allocated to the day area, living room and kitchen with direct access to and overlooking the private garden. The custom-build loft (in wood and iron) crosses the two environments length-ways, and the railing of the loft is the extension of the full and empty sections of the living area”
The most interesting part of the design is the creation of the loft. Multi-purpose and multi-dimensional, it adds edge to the design’s character. In the first section it is devised as a reading-cum-relaxation room and it finally culminates into a children’s play room overlooking the kitchen. Shielded by a large transparent tempered glass wall, the kitchen is visually connected with this area.
“the transparent tempered glass is used once again on the master bedroom en-suite bathroom ceiling, this time arranged horizontally; they make the space more functional, providing matural lighting and also serving as a flat-diaphragm, almost invisible and intangible”, adds the architect.
Another attention-grabber is the 17 metre long divider that intersects the three levels and gives each one a renewed definition. As Auciello expounds “ The same wall has a height of five metres in the day area, and then gradually decreases as it changes levels, in the distribution corridor area and the master bedroom.
The height of the doors flush-mounted in the walls is matched in order to achieve a costant upper alignment”.
The vaulted roof, as the architect describes it, is a getaway. A transparent glass ceiling looks into the sky, thereby opening up the visual prospects of the interiors. This awareness is repeated in the use of full length windows that let in natural light in abundance and also make the house ary.
An element of mystery is added with the stairway connecting the fourth and sixth levels Ensconced between two walls the stairway entices one to explore. With only one flight of stairs visible at a time, the question of where it would end is an enigma in itself.
With the use of materials, the architect has been both selective and prudent. Massive oak slats, cement and resin for the stairs, resin for the covering of the bathroom walls with stone inserts reveal his designing sensibility. With regards to the colour palette, he plays around with limited set of colours, mostly deriving from the colours of the material – white from the matt enamels of the wall, brown –grey from oak and grey from stone walls.
Talking about the design approach he has employed, Auciello said “the approach isn’t minimalist; it is certainly very pure in form, colour and materials. A work based on a subtraction. Working on the subtraction is complicated because we must give the maximum with the minimum. We must move with little”.
Further, he had conceptualised the house not as a work of art or a mere brick and mortar structure. It was essentially for the living, for individuals who would imprint their personalities and lifestyle over it. It was therefore left open-ended, much like a modern poem.
Open-ended meant allowing the inhabitant to customise it as per his needs and desires “without the limits imposed by the architect”. Based on the idea of neutrality, the house rises as a complete canvas for the dwellers to paint their lives on.
As much as it pays attention to maintaining a strain of solidarity between all elements. Auciello’s design also concentrates on connecting the indoors with the outdoors. The huge windows (with screens to obscure the light) are an important link with the outdoors. He opines “It is important whenever you are faced with a new project to integrate it with the outside. A house in Rome can never be equal to a house in Mumbai. There is an identity, a culture of respect. It is important to design whilst respecting places and creating connections with history and with the outside world”.
This interplay of different worlds is also seen inside the house: the kitchen and the children’s play area are interactive. Both are convivial and activity places with the art of cooking being juxtaposed with the inventive skills of children at play. And as the curtain falls, quite literally, the activities draw to a close in the evening.
At the end of it all, design leads to comfort, which in turn leads to a reassuring feeling of being at home. This house, as any other, is meant for the living, albeit for a refined and open way of living. The interior design of the house is in sync with the lifestyles, closed and open spaces, integration of public and private spaces and a common thread that emotes filial solidarity.
Auciello says “ A house is for forever, not a habit that follows fashion, not a subject of little cost. It’s a great investment”. And Gianicolo Residence is indeed a worthy one.