Curvy Homes



At the dawn of the 1960s, when the Costa Smeralda™ consortium was created, the simple architecture of Gallura, of the purely functional and virtually unexpressive “stazzu” cottages, offered little inspiration to the designers of the first buildings on the coast. The absence of a local tradition to refer to, combined with a fascination for the morphologies of the local landscape and a resistance to the dogmas of modern architecture among creators such as Michele Busiri Vici, Jacques Couelle and Luigi Vietti, resulted in a great deal of formal experimentation.

Working for and around the Aga Khan, these and other architects invented a style which was coastal and Mediterranean, curvilinear and neo-vernacular, and very different from the densely packed rivieras of the north, as well as from the tourist settlements that were springing up at the same time in the rest of Southern Italy. An in-depth study of this style has yet to be written which deconstructs its fundamental features and components.



The Luci Di La Muntagna Hotel, Porto Cervo, 1968 – Photo: Nello Di Salvo Archive @ coast magazine



It could speak, for example, about the rejection of the right angle, experienced perhaps as an indulgence of hyper-functionalism, which seeks to exploit every last square metre for a precise purpose. Roundness represents, on the contrary, the possibility of dépense, of a purely hedonistic surplus. It could then delve into the echoes of the landscape in the architecture, linked not by mere mimicry, but by the desire of the latter to inherit and amplify the characteristics of former.

It should also reflect on the stylistic features of the Costa Smeralda™ residence, of holiday homes that seem to be inspired by universal, rather than local, concepts of tradition and Mediterranean character. The houses on this coast are archetypal “super-homes” that display themselves – with their chimneys, their gently sloping roofs, their doors and windows, which may be panoramic but never too ample – as reassuring abodes, ready to welcome holidaymakers bewildered by the separation from their actual homes. Finally, it would be useful to draw up a record of the materials and finishes of an architecture that remains rough-hewn, both conceptually and practically, and nature-based, to use a contemporary term. Dry-stone walls, coarse-grained clay plaster, exposed beams and woven reeds, details in ceramic and metal: the style of the Costa Smeralda™ is visible to the eye, with its many and varied chiaroscuros, but also to the touch, caressing its varied textures.



One of the coast’s first villas – Photo: Nello Di Salvo Archive @ coast magazine


This was not the only style of the early Costa Smeralda™, but, at least in the initial phase, it dominated in terms of quantity, and went on to define the entire operation, to the detriment of other explorations – for example the more linear style of Gianni Gamondi, which merits re-examination. It also resonated with the style of other holiday resorts of the era – Couelle’s Port-la-Galère or François Spoerry’s Port-Grimaud, looking at the Côte d’Azur alone – but only on the Costa Smeralda™ did it become the identity and coordinated image of such an extensive area. The only such case of its kind in Italy and throughout Europe.

In recent years, a new genealogy of architectures that are more stereometric and abstract, brighter and more transparent, has spread little by little along this stretch of coast using forms, aesthetics and materials hitherto unseen. Whether this is an unforgivable “betrayal” of its style, or instead a positive evolution towards new conformations, one thing seems certain: the attentive observer visiting the coast in a couple of decades’ time will be able to draw up a catalogue quite different from the now “historical” one we have tried to sketch out here.


Il Sestante, Porto Cervo