Luigi Snozzi CASA KALMAN
(Locarno, Switzerland) 1974-76
This small house in Locarno, overlooking Lake Maggiore. is an intentional act of provocation in relation to the gaudy, vulgar, nouveau-riche vacation houses that surround it. It marks a return, like his collaborator and friend Mario Botta's critical regionalist Riva San Vitale House on Lake Lugano (pp. 64-67), to the moral values associated with the original Hellenistic Roman villa: the espousal of a moral, healthy, natural way of life and the exaltation of the land. However, unlike Mario Botta's project - in fact unlike most of the critical regionalist projects of the 1980s internationally - it makes no reference to an existing vernacular building type. With its roughcast concrete walls that seem to fuse with the craggy terrain, and its minimalist, self-effacing, austere volume, the building is an attempt to be true to the topographic rather than the architectural genius loci. As such, it can also be seen as a return to the aesthetics of wilderness and natural roughness associated with another Swiss, the 18th-century figure Jean Jacques Rousseau, author of the celebrated Promenades. Snozzi's building expresses the idea of yet another Swiss. Le Corbusier. and his notion of the promenade architecturale.
The design of the Casa Kalman is dominated by circulation. It is entered by a walkway bridging a small stream in front of the house. One can follow the building's curved retaining
(Opposite) Exterior view of the Casa Kalman within its landscape
(Above) The terrace, leading down to the pergola
(Top right) Elevation of the house
(Above right) Plan of the site and house (drawing-room floor level)
wall along the line of the steep hill, pass to an outside terrace and. continuing that line, arrive at a miniature pergola. Throughout this itinerary consistent with the Picturesque and Rous-seauist traditions, a memorable hierarchy of views is encountered by the promeneur. As Snozzi writes. 'The visitor's first impression is one of bold outlines and a progressive disclosure of spaces: the initial architectural encounter at the entry, then across the stream, up the steps through the living room and along the terrace to the pergola.'
There is something heroic about Casa Kal-man's refutation of bourgeois domestic comfort. its austerity, its exaltation of the landscape. its back-to-nature viewpoint of foregrounding the landscape, of 'defamiliariz-ing' the sense of place and. therefore, of making the viewer aware of its real values. But in addition, the purpose of this latter-day Rousseauiste appears therapeutic, 'sentimental' in the original 18th-century sense, a 'sweet and deep revery' to restore health to the psyche through the eye's contact with the outside objects. The contemplation of the surroundings is meant to occur, in Snozzi's words, 'in a number of ways, ranging from the immediate impression of nearby meadows, vineyards and trees and ending in a view of the Bay of Locarno'.
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