A villa by Marcello D’Olivo

“Nature is dominated by curves. I work with the pencil, and my line must be an architecture of curves. Out of respect for nature and architecture”. This is a quotation that many scholars attribute to Marcello D’Olivo, a Friulian architect and one of the most important of his time, whose aesthetic approach was constructed around curved lines and spirals.

Born in 1921, he graduated in architecture from Venice, and in 1952 he presented an urban planning project for Lignano Pineta. Although it is now one of the most famous resorts on the Northern Adriatic, at that time it was just a wooded area at the mouth of the river Tagliamento, the backdrop for Ernest Hemingway’s novels set in Italy during the First World War. In D’Olivo’s project, developed after the area was zoned for tourism, city and landscape are in perfect harmony, thanks to the unique spiral road that leads to homes surrounded by nature. In addition to the urban plan in Lignano, D’Olivo also designed two villas close to the sea: Villa Mainardis and Villa Spezzotti. The latter was chosen as the location for the photoshoot for the new volume dedicated to the Edizioni collection.

Entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Spezzotti commissioned Marcello D’Olivo to design the villa as a gift for his wife Lydia Maria Rizzi. Designed in 1955 and finished in 1957, it was the last building constructed in Lignano by D’Olivo, who in the meantime had severed relations with the Società Lignano Pineta due to disagreements over his urban planning project. In the seventies, following the untimely death of Lydia Maria Rizzi, the villa changed hands, changing its name to Villa Spezzotti Gregoratti.

D’Olivo’s mark on the villa is still evident in every detail. The perimeter walls in reinforced concrete are created by the intersection of multiple circles and the curved motif is constantly repeated, including in decorative elements such as the Luciano Ceschia sculpture that replaces the windows in the master bathroom and the ceramic sunflower at the entrance, also by Luciano Ceschia. The interior also continuously references this shape: from the circular fireplace in the living area to the hallway leading to the bedrooms, where even the windows follow a curved line.

The furniture is integrated with the architecture. The built-in wardrobes, sometimes used as partitions, are made by joining slats of different woods (ash, pitch pine, larch, oak, mahogany), and in the living area they are covered with fabric featuring designs of zodiac signs and galleons.

The maritime theme predominates in the bedrooms, which are inspired by the interior of a ship: curving wall units serve as recessed wardrobes on one side and alcoves on the other. The nautical world even influences the kitchen, with modular compartments that recall the casiers standard by Le Corbusier, another of D’Olivo’s inspirations. The basement level, in the coolest part of the house, hides an actual galley: it seems this is where the Spezzottis hosted dinners with artists and intellectuals of the time.

The exteriors are no less remarkable. Although nothing remains of the natural dune on which the villa was built in the fifties, there are still plenty of maritime pines in the garden, as a reminder of the original landscape.

The villa preserves clear traces of this past and of D’Olivo’s original design. This is all down to its current owners, who are mindful of its historical and architectural value. Although privately owned, Villa Spezzotti Gregoratti is part of Raggi & ArchiTetture – Ville di Lignano association. Founded by owners, it aims to promote the study and dissemination of Lignano’s twentieth-century architecture and to encourage its protection and enhancement.

Photo by Mattia Balsamini
Text by Lisa Cadamuro