Private residence Garden City - Rome

A historical renovation

A bright, modern open space in Rome's Monte Sacro district
Benedetto Marzullo
Luciano Busani
Amati Roberto
Year of completion

The Monte Sacro neighbourhood of Rome is known as the capital’s «Garden City». A leafy suburb built in the 1920s, it was designed by architect Gustavo Giovannoni in collaboration with Quadrio Pirani and Edmondo del Bufalo based on the English garden town model. It was called Città Giardino Aniene until the 1950s, after which it officially acquired the status of administrative district and took on the new name of Monte Sacro. Famous for its villas, it was the setting for one of Beppe Fenoglio’s historical books, Spring of beauty: «From the villas could be heard radios announcing the news of the fall of Mussolini at full volume, there were people and celebrations everywhere…». Construction work was commissioned to «Consorzio Città — Giardino Aniene», a consortium formed by the Istituto Case Popolari and the Unione Edilizia Nazionale. Piazza Sempione, which serves as a visually striking gateway to the neighbourhood, boasts buildings designed by Giovannoni himself and by Innocenzo Sabbatini, the architect who in the 1920s also made the biggest contribution to the creation of Rome’s Garbatella district. The intention of the original project, not entirely fulfilled, was for Monte Sacro to become the biggest garden town in Europe. The 150 hectare development aimed to house 500 villas with 3,000 dwelling units. In this article, we shall focus on one of these. Like many of the buildings constructed in that period, the apartment at the centre of the renovation project in question — a loft with two large terraces — required radical refurbishing work in terms of both construction approach and building type. To achieve a contemporary spatial organisation, the original layout was entirely reorganised while maintaining the historical characteristics of the property. «I wanted to achieve a bright, barrier-free space while keeping demolition and rebuild work to a bare minimum,» explained architect Marco Caldaroni from Rome-based practice FFD. «It was to be almost an open space, in keeping with the intended use of the apartment as my own home.» With this in mind, the daytime area has been concentrated into an open living room with the dining and kitchen area intentionally left exposed to view. As a personal touch, the kitchen counter was recycled from an old family-owned food store, a kind of memento that became the hub of domestic life. The large window allows natural light to flood in and at the same time provides access to the larger of the two attic-level terraces. The bedroom has been converted into a study. The new sleeping area has been concentrated into the end section of the apartment, where a bathroom adjoins the master bedroom complete with a newly-built walk-in closet. In the renovation project for this apartment, the architect concentrated on a «search for simple and neutral materials that would coexist with the historical features of the building». The goal was to provide continuity and above all uniformity. «The choice immediately fell on a single type of large-format monochromatic ceramic tile (Urban Touch from Ceramica Fioranese), which gave the spaces of sense of continuity. The neutral tone of the walls lent even greater harmony to the interior spaces.» The decision to use «a single type of ceramic tile in a uniform way was a specific design choice: the same floor and wall coverings are used throughout the house, choosing identical colours but different finishes». The only more light-hearted feature is to be found in the living room/kitchen area where an entire wall has been clad with slate-effect tiles (Pietra di Lavagna from Ceramiche Coem). These have a unique natural finish that creates a sense of movement and allows them to be used as a surface for jotting down thoughts, notes and drawings. So when entertaining, all one has to do is hand guests a piece of chalk to bring out their inner child!

Ceramica Fioranese, Urban_Touch series
porcelain stoneware
60x60, 30x60 cm
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0.05%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): ULA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): 128
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 47 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Certifications and awards
ISO 14001
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