The windows of the Salvatori showroom at 11 Via Solferino shine with an icy white light. All the fault of the volcano in Iceland. The only one happy about it is John Pawson: “It’s the perfect light for the house…” and he stands at the window to watch the sky.
Salvatori joins him: “Imagine how it highlights the grey of the stone…”. Resting on the rail, they look like two captains of a sail boat intent on scrutinising the horizon, ready to shout “land ahoy!”
They refer to the House of Stone, a dream come true.
Interview between John Pawson, Gabriele Salvatori and AtCasa magazine follows ……..
How did the encounter between the maestro of minimalism and the historic marble company Salvatori come about?
Salvatori: “Twenty years ago, at Hong Kong airport, I fell in love with John’s Pacific lounge. Since then I have always dreamed of working with him. But it was just a dream, until Gilda Boiardi came along. We were looking for a famous architect to present Lithoverde (the innovative eco-friendly stone material,) and Pawson was on the list of names she showed me. I said: ‘He’s the only one that can do it!’ and, much to my joy, he said ‘yes!’
Pawson: “Were you looking for someone famous? Clever as well, I hope!” and he laughs, then: “Yes, it was definitely an arranged marriage”.
“Which would seem to have worked. You’ve been lucky!”
P: “Luck has nothing to do with it. You can’t have a career in architecture without having the right partners. As soon as I saw their new stone I was enchanted by its beauty. I know, I should have said that I was attracted by the fact that it is ecological (99% marble waste and only 1% natural resin, – Ed.) but, hey, what can I do about it? I love beauty. The extraordinary thing is that as you compose the slabs, you can layer the marble exactly as you like and so you can create a personal pattern. You see: a brick is a brick. It has nothing personal about it. While with this stone, the final project carries your name, not only in its shape but also in its substance.
Where did the idea of this house come from?
P: As soon as I saw the Cortile 700 at the Statale, with its almost minimalist cleanness, that was it. I wanted to leave a mark on the diagonal of stone running across the courtyard. To create a sort of bridge between the past and our century and I built the archetype of a house, inspired by the simple shapes of Paleochristian churches, with their primordial naïf character. I wanted to show this new material off to its best, to excite emotions. The cross-shaped cut in the roof and the two façades allows light and space to dialogue directly with the sky. When it rains, the water transfers the cuts to the floor… It is somewhere that makes you want to stop and think.
S: Yesterday evening I saw a group of people who entered the house and then stood there, stock still for quite a while, in astonishment and silence … it was truly beautiful.
Was it difficult to design it with the weight of so much history all around?
P: No. The important thing in these cases is not to be greedy, to be patient and try not to show off. I say this to “young” emerging architects: be careful of your desire to “knock down” the old to leave your mark… “scripta manent”!