Houses for Artists in Rationalist style
The building project for artists’ lodgings on the Island of Comacina dates back to 1920, when the Island, originally donated by Augusto Caprani to King Albert I of Belgium, and subsequently by him to the Italian State, was left in the hands of the Brera Academy.
In 1933 Pietro Lingeri (1894-1968) took charge of the project. The architect from Tremezzo was already known for many projects he had carried out in his this country, including the renovation of the Villa Mayer park and the AMILA (Italian Motorboat Association of Lario) head office (1927-31). Three years later, when Italy had just started out on its imperial adventure, the radical modern projects of Lingeri were rejected by the fascist regime. Lingeri studied new solutions, in which functionalism and local tradition could coexist, along the lines of Le Corbusier who had experimented this language some years before.
The final version of the houses saw the light of day between 1937 and 1939. The material execution only took a year, so by the end of 1940 the houses were ready. It’s a functionalist reinterpretation of larian vernacular architecture. Elements of rural architecture – wooden planks or open galleries – coexist with typical elements from the modernist repertory, such as the ribbon windows or the glass block walls. There are three different versions of the same plan: on the ground floor a dinette, kitchen and double study, while on the first floor a bedroom and small bathroom. The walls are built from Moltrasio stone blocks, plastered with lime on the inside and with a glossy stucco in bathrooms and kitchens. The upper floors, the inside stairs, the doors and windows are made from chestnut wood, while the load bearing structure and the roof frame (with reversed pitches and covered with slate) are made of pine wood. The composition, which juxtaposes the stone planes of the walls against the inside volume of wood, is most evident at the points of contact.
The houses have been used by Italian and Belgian artists for short summer stays. After a long time period of being left derelict the houses had been seriously damaged, but at the end of ‘90s it was decided to do an overall conservation work. The project supervised by the architects Andrea Canziani and Rebecca Fant was carried out between 2009-2010. This intervention has restored the communication between colors and original materials without eliminating signs of weathering. In addition to this, several modern fixtures have been installed bringing the three artist’s houses up to date with the contemporary needs.