LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Gaetano Pesce’s Architectural Experiment


An unconventional Brazilian beach house with some extraordinary design features – Colour! Fragrance! Elasticity! – is the no holds barred private project of its visionary creator, Gaetano Pesce.

When is a beach house not a beach house? When it is conceived as an architectural experiment designed to challenge preconceived ideas of what a house should look like, and how it should be made. Such is the case at Casa do Artista, a masterpiece of a home designed by visionary architect-artist-designer Gaetano Pesce.

Nestled in the bluff of a deserted beach in Bahia, Brazil, 40 miles north of Salvador, this extraordinary house is composed of a series of striking structures made from innovative materials that surprise and delight all the senses. Unusual shapes, an elastic skin of multi-coloured scales and integrated fragrances are just some of the elements that make this incredible home.

Born in Italy in 1939, Gaetano Pesce has lived in Padova, Venice, London, Helsinki, Paris and, since 1980, New York. His work – which includes architecture, furniture, jewelry and objects – is celebrated for its unconventional spirit and use of technologically advanced materials, both of which are prevalent throughout Casa do Artista. Much more than a vacation home, this house is what Pesce refers to as an experiment into residential architecture designed without limits.

As this incredible house is offered for sale, we talk to Gaetano Pesce about building regulations, Bahia, and how the future of architecture is perfumed.

Gaetano Pesce’s definition of luxury:
Luxury for me is having a different life from others. I have a very luxurious life because I am not doing something that others do. Luxury isn’t about going to a certain resort or having luxury goods. A woman who thinks she is important because she has a lot of diamonds is stupid and vulgar.

An object:
Something that is innovative. I don’t believe in a gentleman thinking that a Ferrari can make him more powerful. This is a handicapped mind.

A moment:
A capacity to make a new experience.

A person:
An original brain. When a person has an original brain it is luxurious and interesting.

A place:
Where there is a way of life that I don’t know. Visiting a place of originality can provoke new ideas, and that is very luxurious.

Your house in Bahia is unique in the way it looks and how it is laid out. Please talk us through the design and exactly what you wanted to create.
With this house, I didn’t want to build a vacation home; rather, I wanted to experiment with architecture. In Italy, France, Spain, or any so-called civilized country, an architect is not free to create exactly what they have in mind; there are so many rules and building restrictions with regard to color, materials and proportions. I wanted to build something unique and be experimental with materials, shape, form and technique. So I decided to go to a country where there are no rules. In terms of layout, the house is split into public and private spaces. Usually a houseguest has to stay with others, but I wanted to create an environment where they could live separately if they wanted to. As well as the main building which contains the communal living spaces, there are seven detached buildings, each with a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.

Technologically advanced materials are very important to your work. What did you use to create this house?
Each building on the compound is made from a different material. The main building is finished with a type of resin and tiles that create the effect of fish scales and which are made from a material that weathers extremely well but is not available in Brazil. One of the pavilions was made in rubber, which is a local material. My idea was that the house should evoke a sense of being on a boat, with the subtle movement that rubber provides because it is elastic. But rubber also smells terrible, so I mixed it with juniper, which local people who work with rubber use to clean their hands. The whole house has this perfume about it that is really interesting. Juniper is also used to clear colds and it is true that anyone who feels unwell will feel better after spending one night at that house. You can connect with the architecture at the level of the nose. I believe that in the future all architecture will be perfumed.

How do people react to the house?
People who don’t understand design or who don’t often see originality in architecture usually react with astonishment but in a good way; they smile when they first see the house. The people who built it were also very positive about the project. I am not someone who is rigid, so the house that you see is not necessarily like the house in the original drawings, but the people who built it perfectly interpreted the spirit of the experiment. The future of architecture is not in concrete or metal but structures built from materials that are more human, more elastic and more colorful. In Bahia they have accepted this house, but it will take time for this sort of building to be accepted elsewhere.

How did you discover Bahia?
I had been in Brazil for business several times and had always connected with the special atmosphere, the people, and the music. One Christmas, I was in Bahia with my children and the ambience there was such that they had forgotten it was Christmas day and had forgotten to buy me a gift. That afternoon we were on this beautiful deserted beach and saw this plot of land for sale, and so I bought it there and then as a gift to myself. After three years I began my experiment.

You have said that architecture should express the identity of a place. How does your house reflect Bahia?
Bahia has a very special culture that is heavily influenced by the people from Africa who originally settled here and brought their heritage with them. Color, figures and very distinctive shapes are prevalent. I am convinced that architecture should express the place that it grows in. So the color is there in the house and the shape evokes a sense of being from the past. There is also a lot of humanity about the architecture, which reflects the people of Bahia. A bit of my language and a bit of their language – that is the spirit of this house.

What architectural projects are you currently working on?
At the moment, I am working on a project just outside of St. Petersburg for a client who is building a village for wealthy families. I’m designing some of its public spaces, including a swimming pool, a place for children, a gym and an area where people can meet and socialize after work.

Are you building another vacation home? Why are you selling this home?
I do not plan on building another vacation home, but then I didn’t ever intend to build this one. Bahia is an extraordinary place, with a wonderful culture, people, and sense of being remote. I love it but I am selling because it is difficult for me to get to Brazil with all my other projects. In the last three years, I have only visited the house once, and during that time I have had to pay staff to maintain it and look after my horses and dogs.

More info:

Casa do Artista is for sale with Sotheby’s International Realty:

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