Seven Countries in One Month
This year’s architectural tour was a very intensive on indeed. We covered 7 countries in a month and this year’s focus was on the Italian architecture and some more deep studies of the various styles of the architecture of the French Riviera that was left uncovered from the previous year’s studies. We also marvelled over the span of more than eight hundred years of architecture in Venice and tried to digest the architectural styles that have formed this magnificent city on water over the years.
It would be simply impossible to describe any era more interesting or intriguing than the other when it comes to the myriad of impressions we gathered at this trip. Equally difficult would it to pinpoint any favourite style, however, it is safe to to say that one destination captured my heart like no place has done before; Lake Como.
Architecture of Lake Como
Lake Como has through centuries been the place for the European Nobility to retreat and escape the summer heat. A home to several races dating back to historic times and once under Roman occupation and later under the rule of Julius Ceasar, this region carries traces of architecture from the past. Como’s historic and churches dating to the 12th century were built by the local stonemasons with stone from Moltrasio and this Romanesque style is prominent in the area. The gorgeous villas along the shores of the lakes, some of which date from the Renaissance, are today precious peace of real estate and many of them been restored to their formal glory. During the 16th century, 17th century and 18th century villas were built on the lake and these noble residences cannot be described as anything but masterpieces echoing the different centuries. Typically, Renaissance architects incorporated columns and pilasters, using the Roman orders of columns as models. And the orders are either structural where they would support an arcade, or they could be purely decorative, in the form of pilasters. We enjoyed the myriad of different column settings, in particular the many interpretations of entry ways to buildings achieved by both structural columns and pilasters set in walls.
There is a mysticism, a romantic and serene tranquillity in the towns and villages around the Lake Como with a scenery that is so breathtaking that it feels like a scene from a fairy tale. Many of these architecturally inspiring buildings have equally stunning gardens and landscape that has been just as meticulously designed to complement these ancient wonders.
But there is another style of architecture that can be noticed in this area; the Italian rationalism that took place during the two wars and originated from this area. There was a modern movement that took place with an aim to reform the principles of architecture and the way in which the design had to reflect the purpose of the buildings. These mainly public buildings include the House of Fascism in Como.
Thankfully the Art Noveau era has left its marks in some of the most precious villas in Lake Como as well and we got to witness, what in my view were the most delicate of this subtle era’s architecture. Grand Hotel Imperiale, in the small town of Moltrasio, is a great example of this. It is the most charming building with the old-world charm kept intact through renovations. This glorious building overlooks the lake in the most picturesque setting with manicured landscapes and it incorporates a newer wing that was originally built in the rationalist style.
The Wonderful Villas
The most famous villas in Lake Como are probably the 18th century Villa del Balbianello in the village of Lenno and Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo that was built in the late 17th century for a prominent Milanese marquis but personally, we fell in love with Grand Hotel Imperiale and then, Villa d'Este.
Villa dÉste is one of the most iconic properties in Lake Como, if not Italy. This magnificent property in Cernobbio is built on the 25 acres of gardens so meticulously landscaped, lush and well-designed parkland. The property consists of two mansions, one of which is from the 16th century. Since its origins, designed by architect Pellegrino Pellegrini and originally built as the summer residence for Cardinal Gallio it has been changed but we can still feel the ghosts from its past renaissance glory.
As is true for the many magnificent properties around Lake Como, what makes them so spectacular is the way landscape and architecture have been integrated. The acreage of gardens that have been created in a variety of styles, are a true botanical treasure. There are really pages to be written just about this magical place, however I will not allow my newfound love for it take the glory away from all the wonderful cities and town we visited along the way.
Studying the Styles
What we focused on during this trip was not only the different eras or architectural styles, but rather we tried to study the details and how these could be implemented into our designs in the most authentic way. Secondly, we wanted to get the feel of the properties in their entireness and how the garden landscape has been designed to harmonise with the buildings. We also wanted to build on our knowledge of the various ways roof forms structured.
Our first part of the trip was in Stockholm and Copenhagen where we witnessed a variety of roof forms, the mansard and gable roofs, in copper, zinc or slate, dominating the buildings. In Stockholm, the copper roofs were adopted as an alternative to fire hazardous materials in the past and we can see plenty of roof forms, meticulously curved and articulated that are a true piece of art and craftsmanship that is hard to come by in this day and age. If you ever visit Stockholm, do not miss the opportunity to visit any tall building just to witness the infinity roof tops spreading over the city. It is a fantastic city where buildings as old as from the 1100 can be found in the Old Town of Stockholm but also where the prominent architects of the 18th century left their marks after their Grand Tours in France.
Once in Italy, we wanted to find the simpler, yet equally beautiful roof forms that we could practically get built in Australia and our cameras were clicking from Venice to Milan and to Lake Como all the way down to the French Riviera, trying to capture built forms that we could be influenced by. We saw the way that the parapets were incorporated into the roof forms and how cleverly designed dormer windows are incorporated into the attic of a building with a pitched roof. We also admired the many romantic balconies that were partly or fully sticking out from the roofs.
Many of the most wonderful old buildings that we saw in Italy had been authentically restored but many needed some tender love and care. In the town of Lugano in Switzerland, we saw the most meticulously well-kept old buildings and equally well-maintained landscape and surroundings that one would expect in Switzerland.
Bringing the Past of Europe to the Future of Australia
It would be a big of an effort to try and squeeze in all we took with us from this trip in one blog as each destination had its highlights and taught us so much but we have indeed added to our photo library infinite details that we are looking forward to incorporating to our future designs. Our love for classical architecture has just grown bigger and the heritage restoration work we undertake in Melbourne has only to gain from our expanded knowledge. We are excited to bring some of the ancient craft new life and we keep on studying and learning from the masters of the past.
Life is a journey and we are on an evolving journey of architecture and we strongly believe that to create a better tomorrow one needs to know its past. The understanding of the past architectural styles, whether it is implemented on a restoration or replication is the building block we rely on for all work and the privilege that comes with creating architectural design comes with equal responsibilities. We at Architeria Architects believe that architecture is about creating history as much as it is about creating tomorrow and so we are truly blessed to have gained a deeper and more meaningful understanding of classical architecture during this trip.
For your classical architecture project, we remain at your service, Architeria Architects 03 98945805.