This gut renovation opens up and modernizes the interiors of two apartments in a dilapidated historic Palazzo in Brescia, Italy, while restoring the original grandeur of the spaces. Interestingly, the units are positioned on subsequent floors, sharing, as it were, the same perimeter outline. By virtue of their different ceiling heights, however, they engender discrete architectural responses. On the second floor, the Piano Nobile Loft expands vertically, taking advantage of the 4.4-meter high ceiling. The Round Wall Studio, on the third floor, develops horizontally with a series of partial-height partitions.
Both apartments were in a state of complete disrepair and were subdivided into multiple small rooms, many with no access to daylight.
Several of the most exciting features of the original architecture, such as the decorated primary beams and the coffered wood ceiling, were concealed by plaster dropped ceilings and revealed themselves in the demolition phase.
Structurally, the apartments were unsound–the central wood beams spanning the Piano Nobile Loft’s width and the Round Wall Studio’s length were both sagging. In addition, several secondary beams had been haphazardly cut to make space for chimney flues and were unsupported. The installation of steel columns, brackets, and reinforced screed at floors addressed these issues.
For light and air, each unit could only rely on two large windows facing the street, and none of the utilities were up to code.
The architecture strategy brought back the sense of the scale of the original rooms while at the same time ensuring a well-defined and efficient allocation of residential programs. Wall “objects” within the space–whose contemporary formal language creates a counterpoint to the existing texture of the historic fabric–ensure such programs’ separation. These elements live at a scale between interior architecture and furniture.
To allow light to travel as deep as possible into the room, these “objects” are partial height. A thickened perimeter sheetrock wall aligning with the datum established by the partial-height partitions addresses the unevenness of the existing walls. Additionally, it creates a cavity for services (electric/plumbing) and a shelf for display.
At the Piano Nobile Loft, the intervention left the majority of the ceiling plane uninterrupted, recreating the expansive scale of the original space, which was initially the Palazzo’s main living room. Formally, the bathroom and mezzanine volumes are expressed as inserted and interlocking objects within this historic fabric. The mezzanine volume solves two purposes. Firstly, it acts as a storage “superwall” containing various storage niches with closets, shelving, etc. Secondly, it houses an elevated bedroom that is accessed through a stair and overlooks the living space. Here, the sheetrock thickened solid railing doubles as a headboard and night table.
Furnishings are minimal with a focus on signature pieces, including a contemporary free-form wood sculpture that was found in Bali, as well as the custom dining table and lychee wood coffee tables. Bedroom headboards were also sourced from Bali. Polynesian tapa patterns were carved into teak for many pieces of furniture. Te primary bathroom features dynamic architectural elements such as carved walls of Calacatta marble including a stone shower wall. The cool marble is contrasted with a teak vanity. Limestone walls behind the master bedroom headboard and on the back wall of the kitchen were inspired by a graphic kimono pattern. The guest hale features a wall of surfboards by Firewire/Sig Zane Design, a custom albizia and koa long board by Gary Young, and a rare “ulu” wood surfboard handcrafted by Tom Pohaku which was wave-ridden before it was hung.
Text provided by Architect