La Villa Indeterminata
La villa indeterminata is a distillation of conceptual ideas and material facts found in the Roman and Italian landscape. It is the synthesis of a young architect’s research in Rome under the rubric of the theme Topographies of anomaly and indeterminacy.
The shells of the ubiquitous abandoned buildings in the Roman campagna, often become the centre for spontaneous wild gardens in which entropic nature breaks out from within, overpowering its container. A small mediaeval tower of this type near the Via Appia Antica provides the setting for the villa.
The project is informed by the cascading sections of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli and the Villa Lante at Bagnaia as well as their antecedents, the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina and Bramante's Belvedere Court at the Vatican.
The tower is fused to a new structure, creating a cascading profile. Its stucco surfaces seamlessly merge with those of the tower, negating any material distinction between old and new. Recalling the Humanist predisposition to blur the relationship between the artificial and the natural, its roof of earth and grass mimics a rolling landscape.
GIARDINO AND BARCO
The giardino (garden) and barco (rural woods) are the traditional polar forces found in the Humanist villa. Here, this pairing is reduced to abstract idea. Subterranean architecture, a reflecting pool and the artificial terrace-less landform make up the giardino component. At its summit a small belvedere overlooks both the giardino and the interior of the tower, conceived of as an anomalously enclosed barco.
The giardino and barco then becomes the visual axis upon which three additional hollows in the ground plane loosely congregate. These hollows are in fact submerged courtyards enveloped by the villa’s subterranean assemblage of functions. While gazing up from within the courtyards, our attention focuses on the empty sky, undisturbed by distractions on the horizon.
As it is mostly masked by ground cover, the conceptual order of the plan does not easily reveal itself as a villa. However, like the buried houses of ancient Pompeii, they are conceived as a loose arrangement of courtyards.
At the same time, these sunken courtyards and the grass-topped spaces that surround them refer notionally to the ruined and excavated state of such structures as the Domus Augustana and the Stadium on Rome's Palatine hill. There, the vertical section of subterranean architecture and its horizontal topography render ambiguous what is architecture and what is lawn.
Within the villa’s courtyards a quality of spatially enveloping continuity is explored via the wrapping of walls and floors in a single “Roman” material and then opening the courtyards up to the villa’s interior.
The dual necessities of protecting the villa from vehicular movement, and excavating earth to create the subterranean courtyards are addressed by employing the excavated earth in triangular earth berms that snake near the boundaries of the site. This process of excavation followed by earth re-utilisation, draws inspiration from the manner in which landform was shaped in the making of the Etruscan tumuli sepulchres of Cerveteri. The berms have been positioned to contain and define the site, focus interesting views, while disallowing views of the road from most positions within their porous outlines. In effect, the berms provide an informal backdrop for the villa’s elevated aspect behind which only trees and sky starkly emerge.