Casa ai Bailucchi: A Port for the Creatives


Flooded with light reflected from the sea, this apartment designed by Luca Scardulla and Federico Robbiano (llabb) fits into the intimacy of the neighborhood to open up to the view of the large machinery in the commercial port it overlooks. The apartment is about a young couple. A gallery owner in Berlin and a music lover, he is of Italian origin but grew up in France. She, of Sicilian origins, is a freelance graphic designer working between Barcelona and London. On the highest hill in the historic center of Genoa, right where the first stronghold was established, they found the place where to build the base for their family.

The Genoese word “bailucchi” defines a specific hook used by the cranes of the port of Genoa. The hooks are composed of two claws which, by means of a central traction, tighten the load to lift it. The port has always been a crossroads not only of goods, but most importantly of people and cultures. After all, “bailucchi” is a distortion of the English word “by hooks”, and it sums up all the history of Genoese culture made of port life, labor, meeting places and linguistic thefts. A culture of exchange and creative contamination that, say Luca Scardulla and Federico Robbiano, is underlying the projects of the young Genoese studio llabb.

The apartment is on two floors, the merging of two distinct units of which the one on the upper floor is undoubtedly the most interesting. It is in fact an attic, set back from the edge of the building. The entrance is on the lower floor, where the sleeping quarters are located. Connecting the two levels was the biggest challenge; the space was small and the level difference was substantial: 4.20 meters. A couple of steps lead to a concrete platform: it’s the first feature of the staircase. From here a light metal structure winds its way up to the upper floor. The treads are in oak. The design of the blue nautical rope handrail reinterprets with liveliness and ease certain examples by the most famous architects.

The underside of the handrail is used to accommodate the ambient lighting. The vertical distribution element contributes, on both levels, to the creation of scenes and backdrops through which the eye loses itself attracted by successive breakthroughs that delicately hybridise spaces and functions. This allows for infinite glimpses onto the everyday life not only of the family, but also of the city.

The living area, on the upper floor, stretches in length and the landing of the staircase is located precisely at its centre. To the left is the dining area, to the right is the reading area and the living room, with a small door leading to the studiolo: a very small room that occupies a portion of the terrace. The studiolo is plunged into the void, its square window reminiscent of the cockpit of a crane. The L shape of the plan and the sloping roof produce dynamic and intense geometries. Geometrically-shaped openings in the masonry walls follow the spatial flow, developing a sense of refined curiosity about what lies behind: whether it is the kitchen, the studiolo or a painting.

In fact the apartment, in all its spatial complexity, is dotted with works of art from the private collection of the young gallery owner. Each painting with its own caption. All details that make the apartment feel like something between a home and a small inhabited gallery.

The entire living area overlooks the long terrace. Sheltered from the cold north winds, it opens onto the hill of Castello on one side and the port on the other. Here, the sounds of the city known to most people do not arrive, leaving room for the buzz of the port, its busy energy, its cranes: the always active heart of Genoa. Downstairs, in the sleeping quarters, the original Genoese terrazzo floors have been preserved. Particular attention has been paid to the surfaces of the walls in the master bedroom: the wallpaper has been removed, the plaster underneath, once smoothed, has been stabilised with its layers of colours and inscriptions.

In the House by the Bailucchi, completed in a period of growth for the young firm, llabb elaborates a dialogue between interior and exterior that sets this renovation in the framework of a lively and confident reflection on the city. Here the theme of preservation is confronted with the dynamics of contemporary art is intertwined with everyday life. With this intervention the studio founded by Luca Scardulla and Federico Robbiano, established in 2013 as a carpentry workshop, once again brings out the attention to materials and to details, and the idea of a simple and emotional architecture, inspired by the search for architectural and construction solutions that privilege a confidence with craftsmanship.

Photos by: Anna Positano, Gaia Cambiaggi, Studio Campo

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