I first saw an article about this house, written by New York architect Tod Williams, in U.S. House & Garden Magazine in the 1980s. It took over 20 years, but eventually I found myself in Verona, rented a car and drove 20 minutes to Marcellise where I found ‘Il Girasole’ (The Sunflower), rising out of the vineyards.
I was fortunate to have the housekeeper escort me around the outside of the house, but I was not allowed inside. It is an incredible feat of architecture and engineering, and in today’s environmentally aware world, it should be far better known and learned from.
Villa Il Girasole sits on a circular concrete base that houses the basement and parking levels, and is a composition of two rectangular wings set at right-angles to each other with a circular tower at the corner, acting as a fulcrum point.
The house is constructed as a framed concrete structure with lightweight wall construction and screw-fixed aluminium panels as the exterior cladding, reminiscent of early ships and aeroplanes.
The most fantastic feature of the house is that it moves! Set on 15 sets of wheels running on 3 sets of rails, the entire building revolves to follow the sun throughout the day (reportedly at 4mm per second and powered by two three-horsepower engines). These wheels and motors are still in working order.
Such an intelligent idea, resolved in an impressive manner. It is surprising that this concept has not been pursued in any serious manner since the house was completed. It is also surprising that this project has not received far greater recognition.
The aluminium cladding panels allow the façade to be more forgiving for the rolling movement or for potential shifts due to changes in temperature.
Place: Turismo + ArchInform. Villa Girasole is currently owned by the Invernizzi Foundation and the Architecture Academy of Mendrisio (Switzerland).
Architect: Angelo Invernizzi (with Ettore Fagiuoli, Romolo Carapacchi, Fausto Saccorotti)
Photographer: Stephen Varady (scans from slides)
Map: Il Girasole Map
ALSO HAVE A LOOK AT STEPHENVARADY_INTERIORTRAVELLER
ALSO HAVE A LOOK AT STEPHENVARADY_ARCHITECTURE