Between the Swiss Alps and Lake Lugano, Jacopo Mascheroni creates a rounded glass pavilion atop a submerged base.
According to architect Jacopo Mascheroni, people from the village of Brusino Arsizio, Switzerland (population 475), have been trying to get a glimpse of the house he designed for Nicoletta Messina, a financial consultant, and her family. The 3,700-square-foot polygonal glass pavilion and garden above a partially buried lower level is almost hidden behind walls on a hill. An engineering feat resulting in an innovative modern artifact, it is unlike any other house in the village.
- Entrances: Metra NC 65 STH
- Wood doors: Custom made by Fumagalli-Annoni, Mariano Comense (Como)
- Cabinet hardware: Blum
Mascheroni, who worked for Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects in San Francisco and Richard Meier & Partners in New York City before founding JM Architecture in 2005 in Milan, admits that his client was brave. “I asked him for a house with many large windows,” says Messina, “and then I gave him carte blanche.”
With Lake Lugano on one side and the Swiss Alps on the other, a glass house on a hill seemed the obvious move. But the challenges of a steep slope, building-code setbacks, and surrounding houses made a typical solution impractical and undesirable. Instead, Mascheroni carved into the slope and inserted a reinforced concrete structure, which is approached from a private lane leading to a garage on the west.
The underground level comprises three bedrooms, two baths, an office, formal entry, laundry, staircase, and playroom. Rather than facing out toward houses that block the lake view, the bedrooms open onto a garden enclosed by a wall and tall hedges. Climb the stairs to the public spaces of the house and you find another garden — on 2 feet of earth atop the lower-level roof. Here the house’s curved glass walls allow extensive views of the landscape beyond a perimeter wall to the northeast and a parapet wall to the southwest.
Within the glazed pavilion, no walls divide the living areas, but a central, white-lacquered rectilinearwood volume contains the kitchen, bathroom, stairway, and all mechanical and technological equipment.
Geothermal heat pumps, a rainwater collection system, and radiant heating are some of the environmentally friendly systems used. The house is sculptural, sustainable, and practical. Messina, who works in the house, says that to witness the lights of the village and lake from the upstairs pavilion each night “is a wonderful experience. I live so much more intensely than ever before.”