Casa del Girasole

Place: via Bruno Buozzi, Roma

Author: Luigi Moretti

Chronology: 1947-1950

Itinerary: Building houses, making cities

Use: houses

On the north side of viale Bruno Buozzi is located one of the most famous Roman works of Luigi Moretti: the building called “House of the Sunflower” (“Casa del Girasole”), built by the architect between 1947 and 1950. The famous building owes its name to the treatment of the side elevations, which are folded into parallel planes to catch the light coming from the south, just like a sunflower would do. With the same purpose, to make the interior spaces as bright as possible, the building is split in two parts through a deep cut that allows light to penetrate abundantly in the inner distribution spaces. Even the façade is separated from the main volume, thanks to a thin vertical cut. This expedient, descending by a neoplastic matrix, allows once again to let the light pass through just in the point where the volume should, on the contrary, be closed at its angle.

The building is designed with refined details, so it can be considered one of the most mature examples of architectural research by Luigi Moretti. It is symmetrical at the level of the type plan (which is repeated three times), but it is asymmetrical at the other levels: this produces the effect of a mere apparent symmetry, because the symmetrical central part of the main elevation is accompanied by the asymmetries of the basement and of the crowning.

The side elevations, each characterized by three folded surfaces corresponding to the bedrooms, capture the best possible exposure. The façade cladding is in small white glass mosaic tesserae, while on the back, towards via Tigri, the surfaces are plastered.

The entrance hall occupies the gap between the two parts of the building. A staircase extends into it and connects the urban level with the level of the mezzanine floor. From there starts a second double-ramp staircase that runs free in the space of the cloister, supported by a single reinforced concrete pillar that intercepts it at the intersection of the landing and the ramps. The use of materials is remarkable, with refined contrasts between shiny and opaque surfaces, counterpointed by the green color of the mosaics.

The deep cut that digs the volume for almost half of its depth is covered at the top by a small vault with an aluminum frame. The apartments are two on each floor, except at the attic floor where Moretti designs a single accommodation, intended for the client of the work.

The base is completely covered in travertine. It presents a very unique treatment, which in some points refers to non-architectural shapes such as sketched rocks or calcareous concretions.

On the sides the basement is also treated in travertine. A sculptural piece, a human calf, is also embedded in one of the windows, which introduces in this architecture the datum of temporal depth, as if this building were in fact an ancient architecture, which presents the evidences of its previous life nestled in the façade.

Photos by Alessandro Lanzetta