Located in the middle of a quaint Swiss village, called Scaiano, is an antiquated, albeit beautiful, stone building that seems to evoke romance and nostalgia for the bygone ages. Left uninhabited for over two decades, the house was already on its way to ruin. That is, until Switzerland-based firm Wespi de Meuron Romeo came to the rescue. Keeping much of the original structure intact, the architects were able to create something that flawlessly fuses history and modernity.
Constructed almost entirely of solid natural stone, the building looks out onto the scenic landscape of Lake Maggiore, a large water body running along the Swiss and Italian border. Originally, the house consisted of a vaulted cellar on the ground floor and two additional floors made up of kitchen, bedroom and living spaces. Later, a grape distillery was built on the ground floor, along with an attic room on the first floor. An external stone staircase was also added to the main structure.
By the time the firm commenced the renovation project, many of the joints holding the walls together were already damaged. Consequently, the architects decided to replaster the joints, in an attempt to salvage as much of the original stone masonry as possible. The historic building’s roof was replaced by a new one, while a roof terrace, with stone-paved floor and spectacular lakeside view, was constructed on the annex.
With the intention of repurposing the older rooms into smart, modern units, the team converted the previously dingy cellar into the house’s main entrance. It now has a well-lit sitting area, with a fireplace-cum-wardrobe adorning one of its corners. On one side, the stone wall was cut to create a staircase, leading to the top floors. The former distillery now serves as a lively outdoor loggia, perfect for those long summer nights.
Situated in a traditionally crowded village with narrow streets and lined with solid stone walls, the building lacked proper lighting. As a result, huge glass windows, overlooking the lake, were installed in the bedrooms to optimize the availability of natural light. The former wooden floors were also replaced with cement ones, in order to provide greater support to the hefty stone walls. Additionally, the exterior staircase was demolished to create a small open-air piazza, with a fountain and a bench.
What is indeed unique about the project is that it shies away from overhauling the entire structure of the historic building, and instead establishes a kind of fusion between the old and the modern. It just goes to show how things of the past can be harmoniously integrated into our modern, urban lifestyle.
Image Credits: Hannes Henz