A dream home set amongst granite blocks and mastic bushes
Maria Giulia Zunino
Mario Dal Molin
Iter di Ruggeri Srl
Villa Girasole is named after both the sunflower and the first energy-saving house, the eponymous rotating villa in the village of Marcellise (San Martino Buon Albergo, Verona), built between 1929 and 1935 by Angelo Invernizzi. A splendid example of liberty architecture and futuristic engineering, this «house with a tower» weighs 1500 tonnes and is clad with aluminium alloy panels. But the most distinctive feature is the fact that it rotates throughout the day, driven by a mechanism consisting of a central pivot, a circular track and a diesel engine. Moving at a speed of 4 millimetres per second, it follows the movement of the sun and absorbs heat, completing its rotation in 9 hours and 20 minutes.
The owner of the villa on Costa Paradiso in northern Sardinia is a big admirer of that prototype building. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why he decided to assign the project to an engineer, Mario Dal Molin, who started up his practice in Cagliari in 1989 and rapidly earned an excellent reputation for his architecture projects.
Rather than its movement, the new villa is inspired by the circular shape of the sunflower, which came to symbolise the entire project. The form of a circle evokes Sardinia’s ancient nuraghe stone towers, the corolla of the sunflower, Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man…
Its lines fit harmoniously into the rugged landscape dominated by mastic bushes and blocks of granite (Giallo San Giacomo) modelled by the wind that blows down to the sea.
The layout is based on the radial symmetry of the flower. Three large sea-view «petals» grafted onto a disk (the small rear courtyard sheltered from the wind and communicating directly with the kitchen) open in a fan-shaped pattern as part of a complex structure consisting of solids and voids that maintain a constant dialogue with each other, with the existing context and with the garden where cork and holm oak trees grow alongside exotic plants.
Each petal has a specific function: the two side petals serve as the sleeping areas and the central one as the living space. Delimited by walls that make them easy to identify even from outside, the petals open out onto the complex system of terraces and adapt to the irregular morphology of the land rather than violating it with excavation work. Inside, the steps connecting areas at different heights lend dynamism to the interior and offer ever-changing perspectives.
The materials — granite, white limestone and sinuously shaped wrought iron for the parapets, along with dark wood, aged leather and matting — allow the building to blend harmoniously into the landscape. In addition, the choice of a single type of floor throughout the entire building with the exception of the north courtyard eliminates the traditional division between inside and outside, already rendered imperceptible by the fully openable full-height windows. Well aware of the challenges of designing buildings close to the sea (salt, sun and wind are the worst enemies of architecture), Mario Dal Molin chose glazed porcelain tiles for their green credentials and technical characteristics. In particular, he opted for tiles from Settecento — Mosaici e Ceramiche D’Arte, the Fiorano Modenese-based company renowned for its capacity for experimentation and its range of innovative solutions of outstanding aesthetic quality that modernise rather that displace tradition. The Gea collection tiles are used to customise the large covered area and its various extensions. The hexagonal honeycomb shape adds a sense of naturalness and dynamism. The honey colour coordinates with the yellow of the Giallo San Giacomo stone chosen for the exterior walls and with the granite and Spanish terracotta used in the northern courtyard.
47,8x47,8 rettificato - Esagona 40,9x47,2 - Losanga 47,8x97,2
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): A
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): PEI V
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): compliant
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): compliant
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant