Regina Isabella Spa

Place: Lacco Ameno, Ischia Island (Naples), Piazza Santa Restituta, 1

Authors: Ignazio Gardella; Elena Balsari Berrone (collaborator)

Chronology: 1950 | 1954

Itinerary: Italy goes on vacation

Use: Spa center

In 1950, Gardella was commissioned to draw up various renovation projects for the Regina Isabella Spa complex in Lacco Ameno, built in neoclassical form by the engineer Nicola Cianelli at the end of the nineteenth century. The building, which is only a small part of what Gardella planned up to 1954, overlooks via Montevico and is located in the center of a block bounded on the northwest by the Lacco Ameno mountain and northeast by the sea.

The connection between the spa building and the hotel was made through an aerial bridge, which transformed the public road into a path inside the tourist complex.

The ionic colonnade, an element of the structure’s characterization and recognition, was transformed into an abstract two-dimensional diaphragm. This skeleton, as a “living memory of the past”, accentuates the separation between the white older element and the new one, painted with the delicate pinkish hue Gardella loved. The old façade is juxtaposed to the new body and connected to it by a flat roof above the entrance arch and by reinforced concrete beams on the sides.

The spa entrance is asymmetrical with respect to the new volume but is placed in axis with the portico’s arched twin columns. The recessed structure behind it is characterized by elongated windows equipped with sliding shutters and punctuated by the intercolumns. A series of “T” shaped cuts, placed at the height of the colonnade frieze, illuminate the mezzanine spaces and, with their abstraction, contrast with the refined language of the pre-existing building. The emerald green ceramic base inserts a timid vernacular element into the composition, like a quiet commentary.

Other surviving elements of the Gardella project are the ground floor’s sloping corridors facing the waiting rooms, which originally had a cut of natural light at the edge, some dressing rooms’ furnishings and one of the two staircases.

Text and Photos by Alessandro Lanzetta