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An Italian palazzo gets a makeover

An Italian palazzo gets a makeover

Two Italian architects have transformed a 16th-century apartment into an adventurous 21st-century flat

Two Italian architects have transformed a 16th-century apartment into an adventurous 21st-century flat

Giovanna Dunmall | October/November 2018

When asked to reimagine an apartment in a Renaissance palazzo in Mantua, Diego Cisi and Stefano Gorni Silvestrini, founders of Archiplan Studio, wouldn’t let history intimidate them. The flat was filled with fragile traces of the past, including original terracotta tiles and fragments of 16th-century frescoes in the living room and dining room. Rather than being precious about preservation, they were convinced that different layers of history could cohabit happily.

 

The result is a bold amalgamation of old and new. Instead of restoring or effacing the original pastoral landscapes decorating the dining-room walls, they simply surrounded them with pastel-green, so the new paint echoes the palette of the old art. In the bedroom and living room, the pale colours of the ornate plaster ceiling are picked up in new furniture in raw ash and birch, all of it designed by the architects and made by local craftspeople. The legs and armrests are angular, and the pieces have something of the warehouse about them. But the simplicity somehow complements antiquity rather than competing with it.

Nor were they purists about the past. They put some items to new use: the only original window frame to survive (the others were too far gone to salvage) was turned into a glazed wardrobe door in the bedroom. They left later additions in place too, such as a bathroom door which was added in the 1970s: though it may look dated today, like the frescoes, they say, “it was true to the intention of the time”. Like much of the rest of this project, it is enigmatic and unexpected, both respectful and adventurous.