The restoration of villa La Peruviana, Seveso, Milano 2005-2008



 

“Villa Peruviana, unlike other aristocratic villas of the beginning of the 20th century, was built to welcome and astonish guests with its very special and spectacular appearance”. Taken from an article by Francesco Ronchi, writer.

Standing on a small rise in a panoramic position, over the town of Seveso, a few kilometres from Milan, the villa was built as a place of public and private representation for the Bizzozero family.

deepening

Luigi Bizzozero was the nephew of Generoso Gallimberti, a person who was very successful in his business relations with Latin America, especially with Peru, so much so that he was nominated Consul General. Hence the name “Villa Peruviana”. In Perù Gallimberti had first-hand experience of the hardships that Italians had to undergo as immigrants. From these experiences he learned that “a pencil, a small humble pencil, could be a great weapon for the moral elevation and economic welfare of his town: Seveso”. And so on 25 October of 1886 he founded the School of Design. The nephew Luigi Bizzozero launched out on the commercial career of his uncle and extended exports and imports both in Latin America and to the whole of Europe. This activity brought him various nominations: Consul of Peru, of the Ecuadorian Republic and Venezuela. He was the founder and first President of the Milan Trade Fair, whose first Exposition took place in 1920. The Villa Peruviana was built in 1904 according to the project of Natale Bizzozero, Luigi’s brother, over a vast area set by for a landscaped park à l’anglaise. It is in the shape of a “C” and rises on two floors together with a semi-interred floor. The whole building has large open spaces, covered and open terraces, an entrance portico and a corner tower. Its general architectural appearance is eclectic mingled with formal and architectural liberty features. The walls of the whole villa are built of full brickwork, which is left visible on the outer facades. The horizontal structures are wooden, as is also the roof. All the structural, formal and decorative elements of the facades were built in artificial stone obtained from a mixture of cement and inert material mixed with fragments and pigments of the stone that was to be imitated and used. Hence the term artificial stone. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th artificial stone became very popular for internal and external decoration of buildings: cement is versatile and offers the possibility of obtaining great plastic effects: poured into moulds it can create or reproduce any shape or material. On the outside walls of the Villa Peruviana the use of artificial stone reaches its maximum expression in the ornamentation of the decorated transom windows, the capitols of the columns, the balcony of the double bedroom, and on the corbels supporting the rain gutter cornice. Nature motifs, and geometrical and animal images form part of all the decoration of the outside walls. On the east side, especially on the walls of the covered terrace, we see the use of graffito decoration with mythological scenes: the graffito technique was very much in vogue in Italy in the 15th century and revived towards the end of the 19th, and in the first decades of the 20th. The frieze that runs under the cornice of the rain gutter around the whole perimeter of the building is decorated with a floral motif in typical liberty style, with sinuous and elongated shapes, unfortunately in very bad shape at the moment. The decorations inside the loggia of the tower also have floral motifs: in the centre the walls have floral motifs created with a mould technique. At the central entrance portico access to the villa is by means of a frontal stairway with two side ramps with steps in gneissic stone typical of the area, while the balustrade is in decorated cement. In line with the outside, the inside spaces also have rich decorations: frescoes, mould and plaster decorations, graffiti with floral and geometrical motifs. Everything thought out and created in order to astonish, to involve the guest and the spectator. A particularly powerful visual impact is had in the room on the ground floor which faces the main porch, once a dining hall, separated from the living room by a great glass wall created with the émail tubè technique by maestros Corvaja and Bazzi, among the greatest glass artists of Italy. All the furniture has been lost over the years, but from the graffiti of the walls, from the cornices, the floor and above all the exuberant coffered ceiling, it is not difficult to imagine what the room must have looked like once, with all its original furnishings and decorations. The walls were covered with inlaid wood panelling to echo the decoration motif of the ceiling. The villa stood abandoned for many years and was not used for any other purpose, and in some of the rooms the ceilings fell in, bringing the painted layer down with them, so few traces have remained of the fresco decorations. The ground floor rooms re-echo forms and motifs of the past with scenes taken from the Gothic, Medieval and Mannerist traditions, and expressed by various art techniques. Everything conspiring to create spectacular and striking visual effects. The rich decorations of the ground floor are countered by the quiet elegance of the first floor, which was reserved for the sleeping quarters. The ceilings of the rooms and staircase are covered with plaster decorations with delicate floral motifs. On the ceiling of the double bedroom there is a tondo with an allegorical scene of two children holding bunches of grapes. The floors of the rooms are of wood while the other floor spaces are the typical flooring of the age with tiles made of a mixture of cement and marble fragments. The restoration work as I mentioned before has not yet been terminated. The re-opening of the work-site is planned for the New Year.

 

Exterior restoration

Interior restoration

Facades

Facades

Fregio

Fregio

Graffiti and artificial stone

Graffiti and artificial stone

Ground floor

Ground floor

First floor

First floor