Hotel Cala di Volpe

Place: Porto Cervo (OT), SP 160, Costa Smeralda

Author: Jacques Couelle

Chronology: 1961 | 1963

Itinerary: Italy goes on vacation

Use: Hotel

Jacques Couelle, the anarchitect, as Jacques Prévert called him, is the author of the first hotel built by the Costa Smeralda Consortium in north-eastern Sardinia. Couelle was involved, along with Michele Busiri Vici and Luigi Vietti, in the great transformation project financed by the Aga Khan at the beginning of the Sixties. Couelle thus became the spokesman of a trend aimed at the rediscovery of the intimate, ancestral relationship that binds humans to natural environments. In this project, he designs a settlement model based on the mimesis between artifice and landscape. As indicated in the requirements of the Consortium’s Committee of Architecture, this model seeks a harmonious relationship between architecture and nature, able to relate the spaces with the Gulf’s particular scenic views.

The construction’s massive and irregular forms reinterpret the characteristics of Mediterranean architecture, updating them. The hotel, after several extensions, appears to be a small maritime village overlooking the water, with extreme variety and formal complexity corresponding to the presence of primary elements of architecture: stonewalls, stone bases and rustic plaster walls, the formal variety of the windows, load-bearing masonry structures, gabled roofs, unpaved wooden balustrades and light colors in the plasters. All these define an imaginary memory of the vernacular island architecture.

The hotel is entered via a wooden pier that allows access to the restaurant hall from the courtyard.

Decorations inspired by the Sardinian tradition can be found inside the restaurant, on the fireplace, the elements of the juniper truss and on the ceramic tiles of the bar counter.

The hall displays the organic concept, almost primigenius, of the architecture of Jacques Couelle, who defined as a sculptor even before an architect.

In a continuous search for the best view and defense from wind exposures, Couelle design porticoes with a spectacular relationship between the architecture and its context.

This architecture, so strongly integrated with the place, offers an innovative yet very ancient conception, linked to the use of an architectural form based on the environment’s ergonomics. For Couelle, the human is an organism moving in a three-dimensional space. Usually, spaces are measured in orders of quantity, volume, and square meters. This project makes central the human presence, understood as a dynamic.

The result is internal design in which the space conforms to human movement, returning almost a primitive character to the way of living inside it, enhanced by fine inserts, bas-reliefs and wall paintings.

Text Fabio Balducci
Photos by Stefano Ferrando