Why Villa? Not A House!

“He will always build a house: a beautiful house”. Not a Villa!

“The ‘constant’, to always design a house, a residence, not a villa. Villa (and villino now more than ever) is a word that has fallen off the glorious rank it used to have in architecture, and in theater narrative, and in the bygone custom of villeggiare). (…) Today it is better to say and to think casa (house); a residence. Magistretti will always build you a house: a beautiful house.”
(Una casa di Magistretti, in collina, Domus 409, December 1963)

A house tends to be simple in structure and to conserve ancient forms that do not require the invention of a designer, while the villa is typically the product of an
architect’s imagination and asserts its modernity.

The villa is a paradigm not only of architecture but of ideology; it is a myth of fantasy generated by psychological rather than utilitarian needs.
It is not limited to any particular architectural type, culture, or the historical moment but rather is a social and ideological phenomenon discernible throughout history.

Villas can be regarded as experimental houses that allow architects to study a technical or functional aspect in concrete terms or to develop spatial ideas.

The tradition of villas has often included a return to the pioneer spirit; many architects view these buildings not only as a residence but as testing grounds for new ideas or the crystallization of concepts and theories. Villas provide an opportunity for architects in testing new concepts and serve as a prototype in future projects.

Common among ancient writings, the villa enjoys from the natural setting restorative powers (otium) in opposition to the excesses of city life (negotium).

Villas are utopian settings for conversations of ”Architectural Inventions”.


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[1] Ackerman James S., The villa: form and ideology of country houses (Princeton 1990)
[2] Archer, John, Architecture and Suburbia: From English Villa to American Dream House, 1690-2000 (Minnesota 2005)
[3] Brothers, Cammy, Michelangelo, Drawing, and the Invention of Architecture (Yale 2008)
[4] Elet, Yvonne, Architectural Invention in Renaissance Rome: Artists, Humanists, and the Planning of Raphael’s Villa Madama (New York 2018)
[5] Glaire D. Anderson, The Islamic villa in early medieval Iberia: architecture and court culture (Farnham 2013) p.6-7
[6] https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/villa/hd_villa.htm
[7] Loudon John Claudius, An Encyclopedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture and Furniture (London 1833) p.01
[8] Buildings by Vico Magistretti from the Domus archive

Author: Amirabbas Abutalebi