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Villa Malaparte: Capri’s Hidden Treasure

Villa Malaparte: Capri’s Hidden Treasure
25/07/2017 coro-usr
Jean-Luc Godard | Le Mépris (1963)

Michel Piccoli contemplating the stunning seascape from one of the Villa Malaparte living room windows. From “Le Mépris”, a movie by Jean-Luc Godard (1963)

Villa Malaparte

In our fist issue of CORO Magazine, we talked about the Gasometer of Rome. Tucked in the Ostiense district, this underestimated (but su charming) example of industrial heritage has always been an incredible source of inspiration for our Industrial Archeology collection.
Today, we would love to talk you about Capri as the second stop of our journey through Co.Ro.’s imaginarium.
Welcome to this mythic island then, where the electric blue waters of the Blue Grotto, the typical Mediterranean domed houses framed by lush bouganvillea and hidden cultural treasure will cherish your stay!
From the Emperor Tiberius to Lenin, from Pablo Neruda to Curzio Malaparte: since the antiquity Capri has been the privileged destination of great artists, aesthetes, intellectuals and political personalities.
From this island they have drawn their greatest inspiration and to this island they have left an imprint with the construction of their houses. With this article we want to tell you something about the most extraordinary among these: Villa Malaparte. Faithful ‘stone portrait’ of the owner: the intellectual Curzio Malaparte.

Curzio Malaparte: a controversial man of letters

Kurt Erich Suckert (Prato, June 9th 1898 – Rome, July 19th 1957) – better known as ‘Curzio Malaparte’ – is a flamboyant and unpredictable Italian journalist, writer and poet.
He has been everything and its contrary: from being fascist to an anti-fascist confined in the island of Lipari. From being an Allies’ collaborator to communist. Its political orientation is its contradictory soul.
Because of his main books, Kaputt and The Skin – the first gaining all the experiences lived during the WWII, while the second is inspired by Naples liberation by the Allies – he has been described as
an Anti-Céline who anticipates Hemingways’ Farewell to arms
by Maria Antonietta Macciocchi, Communist Party’s Magazine Vie Nuove director. Later on, she would commission him one of his first reportages about China. A country he would be always bond with.

 

But what about Capri?
Curzio Malaparte fells in love with this luxurious island in the gulf of Naples during a visit to his friend and writer Axel Munthe back in 1936.
Marked by the exile in Lipari, he finds in Point Massullo – a rugged cliff in the eastern part of the island – the perfect place where to devote himself completely to art. About the land he will buy from the fisherman Antonio Vuotto, he will write that:
No place in Italy has such amplitude of horizons, such depth in feelings. It is a place only for strong men, for free spirits by all means
Villa Malaparte | Creative Commons

Villa Malaparte | Creative Commons

Villa Malaparte or ‘Home like me’

Point Massullo is a craggy promontory on the eastern island bound. Despite its protective restrictions, thanks to his powerful political connections he succeeds in getting the needed building license.
In 1938, Curzio Malaparte entrusts Adalberto Libera – one of the maximum representatives of the Italian Modern movement – to design:
A house like me, hard, strange, sincere
1938 is the beginning of a tempestuous working relationship, which both made  this astonishing maison d’artiste pretty different from the original project and raised a controversy whether Libera designed it till the end of the project.
Although Libera’s initial sketches are bound by solid architectural values such as integrity and essentiality, the construction site will be followed by Adolfo Amitrano – a well known master builder from Capri – following Malaparte’s directions.
The house there was already, I have just drawn the landscape!
will say Malaparte himself in his book The Skin, which he wrote in here in 1949.
Built with the intent to reproduce the conditions of his exile to Lipari, this Pompeian red ‘ancient ship‘ from the eclectic and angular shapes mirrors the personality of the writer.
Villa Malaparte | Dettaglio

Villa Malaparte | Dettaglio

About the architecture

The volume of the villa is made up by a mutual development on the long plant (45×9 meters) of a regular parallelepiped and of a trapezoid.
The peak of its lyricism?
Built with an incredibly advanced traditional techniques – such us the windows system: crystal plates implanted directly without looms, for example – but with traditional material – such as load-bearing stone walls and latero cement attics.
Solutions that make us smile and reflect, as poetic as distant from the contemporary energetic saving practices as they are.

But how do the inside and outside look like?

Developed up on three floors, the living room is the beating heart of the structure. Four wide windows framing the Monacone, the Faraglioni, Punta Capannella and the endless blue horizon enshrine furniture of design leaned on the basalt floor.

The crystal background fireplace is amazing: imagine the sapphire blue sea framed by ardent flames.

Then we may find the guest apartment (nicknamed the hospice) and his lover’s bedroom (nicknamed as the Favorite). In particular, his studio has precious floor mosaics inspired by Goethe’s sketches in his Trip to Italy, painted by the artist Alberto Savinio.

Outside, the pre-Columbian style stairway unites the sea with the panoramic terrace, where a white sculptural Lecorbuserian suggestion protects the guests from indiscreet looks.

Modern lines but realized with traditional materials. Challenging the wild beauty of Point Massullo but integrating perfectly with the promontory: a paradoxical architecture that doesn’t miss to arouse some fierce reactions. Someone calls it

A rigid product and in anger with the nature

Others
A wreckage remained on the rock after the reflux of the waves
Or, quoting Bruce Chatwin
A Homeric ship ended to dry

What’s for sure is that Villa Malaparte has a leading role in an unusual dialogue between the Mediterranean and the mountain behind it.

 

Villa Malaparte | © François Philipp / Flickr

Villa Malaparte | © François Philipp / Flickr


Great admirer of Chinese culture, Curzio Malaparte leaves the Villa to the People’s Republic of China. At the time though, China still waits to be recognized by law as international subject.

His will is therefore victoriously grasped by his heirs.

Today’s the headquarter of the cultural Giorgio Ronchi’s Trust.

Unfortunately, it is not open to the public. Nevertheless, you can admire it from the above – by climbing the serpentine panoramic Pizzolungo walk – or by the sea – sailing on a boat.

Villa Malaparte from the sea | Poet Architecture / Flickr

Villa Malaparte from the sea | Poet Architecture / Flickr

Arco Naturale | Wikimedia Commons

Arco Naturale | Wikimedia Commons

From Godard to the 69th Cannes Festival Edition

Picasso, Cocteau, Moravia, Breton: Villa Malaparte is a high level cultural crossroad, a privileged space for artistic contamination.
During the shooting of Jean-Luc Godard ‘The Contempt’, Brigitte Bardot  herself wanders around these charming rooms. One of the most unforgettable scenes? When she catches the sun naked on the roof-solarium, described by Maria Antoinetta Macciocchi as

A terrace that throws itself as a red gull toward the billows of the sea
Le Mépris | Jean-Luc Godard (1963)

Le Mépris | Jean-Luc Godard (1963)

The director Liliana Cavani turns Malaparte’s masterpieceThe Skin in a movie back in 1981 too, where Marcello Mastroianni plays masterfully this flamboyant writer.

La Pelle | Liliana Cavani (1981)

La Pelle | Liliana Cavani (1981)

Fashion follows cinema: in November 1997, Karl Lagerfeld visits Villa Malaparte for about five days, taking some polaroids which will be published the following year by Steidl.
In 2013, Ermenegildo Zegna choose Casa Malaparte as background for a new ad commercial shoot by the director Jonas Akerlund.

In the end, the 69th Cannes Film Festival pays its tribute to Villa Malaparte with a delicate golden lighted official poster, as the demonstration of how it is still long live in the collective imaginary and everlasting symbol of the art-house cinema.
Villa Malaparte is a magic and unique place. An endless source of inspiration. A temple of art and culture.
Which we wanted to share with you.

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Camilla Colavolpe
Bibliography
  • Baglione C., Broggi A., Codello R., Talamona M., “La conservazione di Casa Malaparte” in Casabella n. 648, settembre 1997
  • Chatwin B., “Tra le rovine” in Casabella n. 648, settembre 1997
  • Hejduk J., “Casa come me” in Domus n. 605, aprile 1980
  • Monaco A., “Casa come me. Progettare per se stessi” in Quaderni Istituto per l’Architettura Mediterranea / 2, ottobre 2013
  • Purini F., “Architettura senza architetto?” in Casabella n. 582, settembre 1991
    Savi V.,“Orrifica, surrealistica. Casa Malaparte a Capri e Adalberto Libera / Abitare nell’architettura” in Lotus 60 ,1988
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