Forty years after creating a cluster of utopic
villas on Sardinia, an architect returns with a new team to create a single retreat.
Approaching by land or sea, one could easily miss these three villas on the northeast coast of Sardinia. Attuned to the environmental sensitivities of the 1970s, when they were designed by Turin architects Ferdinando Fagnola and Gianni Francione, they rise almost reluctantly from the earth, their Brutalist wedges half-rooted and dispersed, woolly with shrubs. This spring, four decades after the villas were built, Fagnola returned to the island, joined by a team of younger architects from another Turin studio, PAT., to finish off a series of restorations—ranging from a fresh color palette to adding new bedrooms—commissioned by the current owners. The result is a single vision refined and elaborated on by two generations of designers: environmentally committed, aesthetically bold, and built to foster a quasi-communal lifestyle. “New forces bring new ideas,” Fagnola says. “I was happy to see architecture I did forty years ago rejuvenated by young blood.”
In 1975, the scion of one of Italy’s wealthy industrialist families commissioned Fagnola and Francione to develop five sculptural villas near the sea on the famed Costa Smeralda. But halfway through, financial pressure led him to sell their naked structures to individual buyers, who finished the construction themselves. The results varied and often broke with the architects’ intent. One villa was subdivided into multiple units and covered in granite, for instance.
Fast forward to 2011, when a new pair of owners scooped up three of the villas and nine acres of land. Eager to realize the original architectural vision, they invited Fagnola to restore, modernize, and unify them into a single retreat. Francione had moved to Bali in the intervening years, but Fagnola was still in Turin, where he formed a new partnership with PAT.
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