Many of Italy’s rural villages and hamlets have struggled in recent years to retain their populations and relevance in a modernizing world. One villa project on the outskirts of Urbino, the ancient hill town in the region of Le Marche, shows how cultural heritage and contemporary architecture can harmonize and shine.
AP House, a three-structure villa complex designed by the Rimini architecture firm for an unnamed client, was constructed on the remains of a medieval settlement. The two main structures, which comprise a single dwelling, sit independently on a 38-by-20-metre red concrete platform but are connected below grade by an underground corridor. A third building used for entertaining and storage is located nearby on an artificial hill. GGA, led by architects Alice Gardini and Nicola Gibertini, oversaw the retreat’s landscaping as well as its buildings and interiors.
The stone-lined exteriors, topped with pitched roofs covered with terra cotta tiles, reference traditional Italian architecture, but boast streamlined silhouettes (free of elements such as gutters and drainpipes) and house reinforced concrete interior walls. The main entrance is located in the large drive-in garage in the basement.
From this lower level – which includes a gym and spa, a cinema room and an exhibition gallery in the underground link between the two main buildings – a staircase leads to an airy ground floor offering expansive views of the surrounding hills. The fluid but clearly delineated ground level includes a living area, dining room, kitchen and studio. Direct access to the red concrete terrace and infinity pool outside is provided by large, glass-paneled floor-to-ceiling doors.
On the top floor, a master and two double bedrooms with ensuite washrooms are arranged around a large balustraded landing. The clean-edged furniture and storage units throughout the home are made of natural walnut, providing a warm counterbalance to the concrete walls and instilling “a sense of order” by concealing mechanical and service elements.
In addition to stone, the smaller of the two central structures is clad with wood, evoking the barns that are “a constant presence in this scenery.” Also disrupting the “severeness of the outdoor composition,” in the words of the architects, is the manmade hill on which the third building sits, with “its misaligned geometry” made of Corten steps and grass.
The energy supply, which is entirely electrical, is provided by an extensive photovoltaic system hidden in the grounds of the property and located at a distance from the buildings.
Overall, the villa creates “a direct and empathic dialogue,” as the architects describe it, between the new buildings and their setting, bringing new activity and another form of beauty to a richly layered site.