Casa Come Me

The Island - Capri, Italy:    Environmental Context


Capri is a small island just off of Italy, often described as the 
"The Blue island", "The sleeping beauty", or "the island of love".
Capri contains many tourist sights, and Casa Malaparte is on the far  East of Capri.
The isle of Capri contains two municipalities: Capri and Anacapri (this means Capri of above).
An Aerial view of Capri  which shows the shape of the island as shown in the map
(source : Paestum)


General Information

Total Area: 10 km2          Capri Area: 4 km2              Anacapri Area : 6 km2

Population: 12 200 (as of 2002)

Climate : Temperate

  Winter: 13.1 C     Spring: 16.5 C    Summer: 22.7 C     Autumn: 13.9 C

  Maximum height : 585m  Highest Point: Monte Solaro Average Height: 206m

Flora and Fauna
Capri has a very diverse range of vegetation. There are many different formations throughout the island. Three main areas are: the Mediterranean bush, the arboreal euphorbia, and the Ilex wood.

The Mediterranean bush generally include dark coloured bushes and shrubbery  Many of the plants within this family are woody and mainly evergreen and sclerophyllous. This means many of the plants have leathery persistent small leaves. 
Mediterranean Vegetation  (source: Panoramio)
The arboreal euphorbia refers to the entire perimeter of the island but also towards some internal areas. This type of vegetation often is accompanied by lentisks and rosemary. This type is able to grow even into inhospitable rocky slopes, gravel areas, stony grounds, and other areas that lack proper nourishing substances. Vegetation of this sort is found on the sunnier and stony hills, which is more on the southern slopes of the island, particularly near the Natural Arch and Punta Tragara. It is somewhat on the northern coast but is more diffused and less condense. This type of bush is present throughout the climate of the year and is very noticeable from a distance. In the spring, bushes tends to be green as the buds are starting out, whilstt the summer, the darker tips of other bushes are accompanied by brownish red leaves and branches. Interestingly, this species sheds its leaves in the summer to prevent damage from extreme heat. 
The Natural Arch: notice the immense amount of dark
green foliage surrounding (source : Flickr)
Punta Tragara ( source : CNN travel)

Finally, the Ilex Woods (Oak) is the most and main wood on Capri. These types of wood are influenced by the topography of the island, and its severe slopes and hills. They are present because many areas have never been cultivated or used for pasture.

Oak trees line many trails in Capri
(Source:  Garden in Capri
Without going into immense detail, the types of animals in Capri are, as well, very diverse. Mainly in Capri, the small invertebrates are dominant and most diversified. Which is to say, there are many numerous terrestrial gastropods (mollusks) , bugs, and arachnids (ie. spiders, scorpions) , many of which are special to Capri. Birds are also a natural sight in Capri, as Capri is home to many hawks, sparrows, robins, quails, and falcons. In terms of reptiles, geckos are most common. 
(Source : Capri Tourism )

The History of Capri

This small island was inhabited since the Paleolithic era, it was first Greek and later Roman. Many Roman nobles visited and inhabited Capri consecutively. Emperor Augustus visited in 29 B.C and was the first to build a villa in Capri. Followed after by Tiberius  and other succesors. After the collapse of the western Roman Empire, Capri was occupied by the Duchy of Naples for some time. In the 7th century, it was then raided by Saracens and following the centuries, Capri became dominanted by Longobards, Normans, Anjoins, Aragonese and finally the Spanish. Afterwards, in the 18th to 19th centuries, the island came back in unison with Naples' period of political and artistic endeavors, thanks to the Spanish and later the Bourbons. As a result, the architecture of Capri can be admired for their mythical primitive charm. Many of the churches and monasteries reflect Capri's history. Thus, the island became established as a tourist location since, and has been a seasonal or permanent home to many poets, writers, royalties, and celebrities. (Source : Italy Heaven and Capri Tourism ) 


The Culture of Capri

The culture of Capri was revitalized since the return of many writers and intellectuals in 1800. Many were attracted by the climate, location and the wonders of Capri. Later, it began to be flooded, peacefully, by the English, Americans, and Germans, and thus consequently, Capri began to be equipped with tourist facilities. For this reason, Capri is populated densely with tourists throughout the year and there are less long term inhabitants. In addition, the small size of Capri makes long term housing a rare find and expenses are high. On the other hand, Anacapri offers a less expensive option while still staying in Capri, nonetheless, the culture of Capri is defined by the busy tourist filled narrow streets, the small street scooters used for travel, cusine, and the population of the luxury and the inspired. 

Housing and Hotels in Anacapri (source: Becka Bella style Inspirations
Panoramic View of Marina Piccola 

"In some way, a writer is always depicting himself, even when he describes an object, a tree, an animal, a stone."
- Curzio Malaparte

Casa Malaparte

The Environmental Context

Casa Malaparte or Villa Malaparte is located at Via Dentecala 1000, 
Capri , Italy, with the coordinates 40°32′49″N 14°15′33″E.
Casa Malaparte is situated on the rocky ledge of Punta Massulo on the eastern side of Capri.The environment makes the experience of this house; Malaparte had chosen this site specifically. It is daring, dangerous, and not fit to be build upon and even seen is a sparse of vegetation around the building compared to the rest of colourful Capri. Although, it make use of a rough cliff into a beautiful home. It is neither destructive to its surrounding but merely became forged into it. The maritime pines mask the house and contrasts the blood red of the building while the blue sky and water intensify the irregularity of the cliff. It appears as if the staircase extends the cliff even higher, elevating the circumstances to a brand new height, it is to say the entire surrounding becomes Casa Malaparte's roof and terrace. The environment has been molded and framed by the foundation of Casa Malaparte to physical space while remaining as empty as it could possibly be. 

Malaparte had no obligation to fit in with any structures in the surrounding because he was the first to build upon Punta Massulothe site itself around the house is undeveloped and the nearest building remains 300 metres away. Casa Malaparte is in complete isolation from the rest of the civilization, and instead it is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on three sides, elevated 32 metres above the water, raised 99 steps on top of the crashing waves, and distanced 3.2 kilometres to town. One is able to walk on foot from town to this home through a staircase cut into the rough jagged cliff or travel by sea in the crashing waves. 

Malaparte wanted the house to match its environment not only in the outlines, the architecture, but also the building materials  He rejected the use of bricks and concrete, and chose local stone extracted from the site. As a result, Casa malaparte resembles as if it has emerged right from the landscape on which it sat. 

This house is ultimately vulnerable to nature and natural weathering. Already, it seems as if it can be engulfed by the sea in one big wave as the exterior facade show the damages of the sea and salt with cracks and nuances. However, this is not the case. It has endured the strong winds and rough days and at the same time, its intended isolation and its striking size and scale make it appear strong and tough to withstand its surrounding environment and to remain perched alone on this dangerous cliff.

View that showcases foliage, rocks, and water. 

“A beautiful thing, forged out of a brutal environment,” 
- Simon Jacobsen, architect 

Size and Scale

Casa Malaparte is 54 metres long, this is approximately equivalent to 4 average school buses.

Casa Malaparte is 10 metres wide, this is approximately equivalent
to 10 large steps, as the picture above shows a movie still from, "Le Mé

“I now live on an island, in a melancholy, austere house, which I have built myself on a solitary cliff by the sea. The image of my longing” 

- Curzio Malaparte

Purpose & Intentions

This house was designed for a very particular existence; for a self-consciously anti-bourgeois individual. After all, Malaparte's last book before his death was an attack on middle and upper class families. He was  a man with no interest in conventional family life, a sensualist who was looking to make himself a place in which he could retreat to a setting for solitary writing and contemplation. If he achieved this, it was through the selection of location as he clearly set out to have this site. Originally, this site was not allowed for building at all. It was the wildest, most solitary, and most dramatic part of Capri, and Malaparte strongly felt that this pink-faced house was like his own portrait in stone. The savage site revealed the cruel strength of nature and provoked a depth of feeling. Malaparte thought that a site like this was only fit for strong men and for free spirits like himself.

This house also carried a profound arrogance with it. It would take a strong man to dwell in a landscape so remote from the rest of the civilization and in a house that is so much bigger than the man himself. It requires an individual with character to be able to take up such a large space and Malaparte saw himself as that strong man who can stand above all threats, similar to the way the rocky cliff stood strong against the crashing winds and perilous sea.

Character of Forms

Casa Malaparte is formed of many ordinary factors that define its character, however, these factors are shared with all sorts of buildings worldwide. Firstly, is to recognize the many common elements in which Malaparte embodies and to identify the significance and finally note the difference of each comparatively to others with the similar element. First is Malaparte's choice of a blood-red paint for the exterior facades of the building. This is similar to Casa Rossa, another brightly coloured house located in Capri, but Anacapri. 

Casa Malaparte 
Casa Rossa - "The Red House"
Both houses are red, and both house are located within the isle of Capri. On the other hand, one is built by an Italian, and the other by an American. (Source : Capri Italy ) Conversly, as the photos above clearly demonstrate, the context of which both buildings are situated are very different. Malaparte is isolated and surrounded by foliage, sea, and rocks. Whereas Casa Rossa is located amidst a square. This environment sets apart the difference of both building's similar colours. In Malaparte, the colour red symbolises a stoic, dangerous facade and on the other hand, Cassa Rossa boasts the colour red in a happy, celebratory, and ceremonial atmosphere. 

Secondly, the barred windows of Casa Malaparte reflect the Regina Coeli prison in Rome, where he stayed at least twice during his life time. The barred quality of both situations infer both seclusion and restriction. However, Malaparte had chosen to have barred windows, creating a independent and intentional privacy. Interestingly, it is said that Malaparte had become accustomed to seclusion during his exile and thus upon release actually wanted more isolation.
A small window of Casa Malaparte
Regina Coeli Prison Window
The prison's barred windows share a different story, which is  influenced by function. Malaparte wanted privacy because he wanted to stimulate his writing talents in serenity and quiet, however, the function of the prison were to keep its inhabitants in. Therefore, the character of both windows, although similar in form, have clear distinctions.

The Almafi Coast

Amalfi Coast Map 2006 by James Martin
Capri, as shown above, is accessible from Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast, both tourist attractions, within a day. Similar to Casa Malaparte, the Amalfi Coast is abundant in cliff side homes. Thus, this leads to the question; if there are many homes on the cliff side similar to Malaparte's, how is Casa Malaparte special? 

The Unique Scenery of the Amalfi Coast (Source: Travel Blog )
Most particularly similar to Malaparte is Torre di Clavel, this villa is situated on the cliff side, over looking the sea as well. However, it is at a more attainable level and height. This structure similarly to Malaparte appears to grow out of the rock it is built upon and blends in with its surround while still maintaining an obvious presence. Below is the Torre di Clavel pictured relevant to its site and surroundings.  (source:Homebase)

A close up of Torre di Clavel and the view it provides.
This structure is completely engulfed by the rock it stands, alike to Malaparte that is raised from the rocks below it, this structure instead became a part of it as the image below shows a corridor embedded into the cliff with visible, dark, and slightly claustrophobic cliff-side framing it. 

Other houses on the Amalfi coast line is also situated upon cliffs, although only some are as dramatic as Torre di Clavel or Casa Malaparte. However, many of the homes on the coast are just as colourful as Casa Malaparte. 

The Almafi Coat Cliff-Side Housing, notice the abundance of bright colours. (source: Otts' World )
As seen in the picture above, there are many colours within these homes similar to Casa Malaparte as well as similar site and location. However, what these homes and the Torre di Clavel do not have is the special form and shape of Casa Malaparte. 

Casa Malaparte prevails as the only structure with the pyramidal staircase leading up to open air. The complex simplicity of Casa Malaparte persists to be unique to Capri, or world wide. No other houses and villas, although beautiful in their own way, are presented in nearly the same ambiance as Casa Malaparte. They may have the same site situation and colour, but the form which molds the character is distinguishable uniquely only to Casa Malaparte.
The Almafi coast showing the cliffs, beach, and homes. (source : Boat Bookings )

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