It was love at first sight when Massimiliano Locatelli first laid eyes on the two industrial buildings for sale in Salento. Once a former gravel quarry, today the property has been transformed into Locatelli’s vision of a summer camp community for adults, with two single-storey, flat-roofed buildings housing eight identikit dorm-style bedrooms, and a common area with a kitchen and living room.
Locatelli talks to Via Magazine about the house that locals have nicknamed ‘the Anti-Masseria’ turning the traditional Pugliese farmhouse concept on its head.
by Emily Millett
To architect Massimiliano Locatelli, a house should be a stage for people to become the actors. This was part of his eclectic vision for the property he recently bought and renovated in Puglia. Tucked away in a national park and overlooking the sea, this contemporary retreat, with its fluid indoor-outdoor spaces, and open, unified design elements is the perfect antidote to the traditional Masseria of the region.
But, as per Locatelli’s clear vision for the space, the real focus is on outdoor living. A huge open-air square connects the indoor spaces, and the roof has become an ‘al fresco’ area for dining, swimming in the lap pool or simply taking in the expansive views of the wild Puglia countryside and the sea beyond.
“From the roof, it looks like you are flying on the ocean,” says Locatelli. And while guests could quite easily while away many a languid afternoon up above the treetops, watching the cobalt sea as it stretches out to meet the horizon, the beach is actually only a five-minute walk from the house, with the nearest waters being the stunning Cala dell’Acquaviva, which Locatelli calls: “the most beautiful beach in Puglia.”
“Real Puglia is not rich, it’s a little broken, but there is beauty in the mess, and that house was the exact shape of the mess of Puglia.”
How did you find the house and what made the property so special to you?
I was in Puglia on vacation and one day I was walking down to the sea and I saw the ‘FOR SALE’ sign. All you could see was this huge external wall with a few high windows, but I really liked it. The look was between an office and a mental hospital! Broken, but really beautiful and special. I bought it straight away! So, the house found me more than I was looking for a house!
I fell in love with the space because I could step in with my own personality; there were no restrictions, so I felt free to do whatever I wanted. I decided to create a space which was more like a ‘commune’ – solid, easy, functional and easily shared; where I can host friends whenever they want. I also wanted it to be very basic, so that the actors are the people in the house.
How do the architectural features and materials reinforce your vision and what role did the local touch play?
Wherever I am, I like to work with the local people of the place and keep the culture alive as part of the project. I wanted to take into consideration, what the history of the building was and try to respect this. So, I used the same local Pietra di Lecce stone of the original roofs for the whole house to create a unified space. I also used light grey gravel in memory of the place’s history as a gravel quarry. Grey plaster on the walls completes the look, so it’s like this monolithic element of the same material that covers the facades and all the floors.
The doors are inspired by the aluminium doors that were fashionable in Puglia in the 70s-80s and the furniture is designed around the idea of camping furniture. It is just a bed, a bench and a closet, all using easy materials that are waterproof, do not rust and age beautifully.
The only very luxurious thing is the bathrooms. I felt I was going a bit too basic and needed a touch of richness for balance, so I had beautiful sinks, toilets and bidets made in Vietnam, carved from solid pieces of marble in different colours. The beds are also rich with beautiful pieces of fabric I found around the world as covers and linen from a small factory in Puglia where they make beautiful hand-loomed 100% linen.
“I fell in love with the space because I could step in with my own personality; there were no restrictions…”
How did the term ‘Anti-Masseria’ come about and what motivated you to create something so different from the traditional buildings of the region?
in Puglia you are always attracted by the beautiful Masseria; these incredible 17th-18th Century constructions made of local Pietra Pugliese stone. They are really charming, with the characteristic dome on the ceiling and traditional Pugliese building techniques.
My property had nothing of this, but during the renovation, the local contractor was pushing me to do a fake Masseria dome on the roof, and old floors with local coloured enamel tiles. And I was like “no this is not an old Masseria”. So they started calling it the ‘Anti Masseria’! I did not want to try and replicate the old way of building or decorating the interiors. I believe when you renovate, you have to respect the nature of the structure; go with the flow and the heritage.
How does your house reflect Puglia and what is so special about this region to you?
My house is like the beauty of Puglia. Real Puglia is not rich, it’s a little broken, but there is beauty in the mess, and that house was the exact shape of the mess of Puglia.
Puglia is a beautiful land. The food, wine and olive oil are to die for! The colour of the sky is amazing, the nature is fantastic, the ocean is incredible, the people open their arms to you. They are so welcoming and eager to share their beautiful culture. There is a realness that I love. But also what makes me happy is this informal way of living, this spontaneous way of being, which I aimed to replicate in the playfulness of my house!
When I am there, I love going to the local artisanal spaces, such as the Ceramiche Nicola Fasano terracotta and ceramics factory (IN @fasanoceramiche_cnf), or Tessitura Calabrese – the linen factory where I get my beautiful bed linen. I also love to go to Bar Alimentari Tabacchi da Carlo in Porto Badisco, where you can find this local guy who fishes fresh sea urchins every day and then opens them on a little table at the bar and you can get them fresh and have them on the street for only 30cents each. You can be very socially busy if that is what you feel, or you can be isolated in a beautiful way with the locals.
Although Massimiliano Locatelli’s ‘anti-masseria’ is his private holiday home and not available to rent, this award-winning architect is generously liberal about sharing his creation with friends.