MY HOUSE ON ELBA
Viticcio, Island of Elba, 1978
House-as-self, but also as nature and the physical surroundings have wanted it to be. Like so many of the conceptual works realized previously, Pettena’s first “real” work of architecture, begun at this time but still in progress, is conditioned by its relationship with the physical context, the material and the working of space. The stones used, for example, are those of the retaining walls of the ancient and now abandoned rows of vines, or pebbles from the beach onto which the plot of land faces. And then the fences and canopies of canes, as well as all the little details and ideas of architecture that already existed in that context and have only found a manual expression in the organization of the small rituals of living. Pettena points out that “the important thing was to be there, spending time there and understanding what were the rules that nature or the preexistences already dictated.” So it was the relationship with the context, the sea and the Mediterranean maquis, that suggested how to proceed: everything that becomes conceptual structuring is at bottom a memory, a distant memory of distributive strategies of use of the “place.” Thus the house coincides in reality with the entire property, while the construction is just the block of services: the whole plot of land is specialized according to functions of use that do not have a traditional distributive structuring.
Over the years the house has undergone several transformations. A friend who lived in it recently described it as “a village”: in fact the house has progressively been defined as a sequence of spaces connected by routes, just like in a village. So it goes on growing almost like a primitive village, through intentions, successive organizations of spaces that define one another and are linked together.