It’s a grey, autumnal day in London this morning. It poured with rain for much of the day yesterday in Dorset. It seems impossible to imagine that less than a week ago I was in beautiful wam autumnal sunshine in Italy. A nice interlude before autumn storms creep up on us.
We were over for the two projects we’re working on, in Piedmont and then down to Tuscany. Here’s the architectural office in Piedmont, everything you imagine an Italian architect’s desk to be.
The main purpose of our visit was to look at materials. We are building a new and highly environmentally friendly farmhouse on a small farm, that is designed to look, if at all possible, as if it’s always been there. So using reclaimed materials wherever we can is a key part of the brief. It was wonderful to visit so many incredible salvage yards in the lowering sunshine of our first day there, last week. Beautiful Luserna stone which will be used for paving, inside and out. The facade of the warehouse. The nice man who ran this salvage yard had a passion for his work. Back in Turin that night. I’ve never been to Turin before – we loved it. A beautiful city and with such a happy atmosphere on the streets.
Back to the reclamation yards on Saturday. Secretly, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were perhaps my favourite thing that I saw all week…. My sort of place! This was another yard – incredible stock. Back in Turin, to a cresent moon which – like the rest of the city – looked like a painted stage set. Turin was in the middle of its annual chocolate festival. All these apparently rusty bits of metal were in fact delicious chocolate. The streets were thronged. Early the next morning I went for a little walk in the balmy sunshine.
I love the bull’s head drinking fountains everywhere…. so beautiful. Turin is like a sugar confection. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening here but it caught my eye. Down by the river. The polytechnic is a rather impressive building – as imagined by Wes Anderson, you couldn’t help feeling (a feeling that you’d have a lot, in Turin). The beautiful green River Po. The bizarre creation of the Mediaeval village. The front of the Polytechnic has this beautiful cobbled paving.
And then we went to the University Botanical garden, with it’s 80s’s conservatory in happy colours – And dusty, gentle gardens…. Then, we walked to the old FIAT factory – an incredible building… and the extraordinary test track on the roof, now a beautiful garden, overlooking the city and the mountains beyond…
Turin that evening, packed with happy people… The empty market… Our little supper place, the best fish I’ve eaten in a long time… And the next morning, we were visiting other projects completed by our collaborator architect – this is his home village, Bruno, where even the ‘dead end’ signs have faded to the colour of the beautiful honey coloured buildings… When we were visiting this house, I snapped a photo of the wall and garden next door, without realise I’d also capture the essential ingredient of every Italian house, the nonna in the garden, hanging out the laundry. The castle at Bruno. Another house visit… My type of wall: And then back through town… For a final lunch, then a long drive south, via Genoa, down to Livorno. Supper that night and a walk in this town, that I think we didn’t necessarily find the soul of…. But it was a beautiful view in the morning, waking up to deserted, out of season resort Livorno, shuttered for the autumn…. one or two dog walkers on the esplanade, that must have been packed just weeks earlier… And then back to our project, the restoration of a beautiful old villa, high in the hills above Livorno… It was the first of November, and we had lunch outside in the garden – the most delicious lunch you’ve had in a long time.
Then, the Italian Interlude was over.
A good tonic for the eye and soul.